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« . V f ■
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
LONDON: MACMILLAN & CO.. Ln>
All rightt reserved
THE NLVV iwii^
riTi.ic i.i;..".:a:;v j
AS" .: : :.>0X \N-
'ill, ...: : ji m;.:.j.v3
/V^' o.u.-- *'V--,
By the MACMILLAN COMPANY.
Set up, electrotyped. and published March, 1904.
THE DEAR FOLK
UP AT THE
THE PRICE OF YOUTH
THE breeze had dropped, and the river, under
the blaze of afternoon sunlight, stretched
rippleless from shore to shore. The shining water
seemed to hold an intenser blue than the sky. It
was of a burnished brightness, that almost hurt the
eyes. By contrast, the opposite shore, with its belt
of pine trees, looked dark and sombre, shades of
green deepening to black. The bank rose in one
part steeply to a bluff, and the exposed clay took
tjie light in tones of raw gold and umber. Very
far to the left, where the river widened to the inlet,
were spaces of salt marsh, bronze and purple, and
a low trestle bridge spanned the water. A train
was crawling across it now, like a long black cater-
pillar, the smoke from the engine hanging drifted
against the grey-blue sky.
The afternoon was quiet, with the expectant hush
2 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
of early summer, before the myriad orchestra of
insect life has reached its zenith. Up in the air a
fish-hawk hung circling with mournful grating cries;
one could see the grey underside of its wings catch
the light as it sailed lazily. The bird, and the tiny
crawling train on the railway bridge, seemed the
only living things in a brooding silence.
The girl who was stretched face downward on
the pine-needles watched the sky and the river and
the floating fish-hawk in a large indolence bom of
the afternoon. The little clearing where she lay, at
the edge of the bank, was shut in by pines, their
trunks growing straight and high like columns. The
air was drowsy with the scent of them, mingled
with the fresher sea-smell from the open river, and
the ground was covered with their brown needles
like a glistening carpet. High overhead the branches
creaked and crooned, twigs rustling softly in the
ceaseless chant of the woods.
Her cheek rested on the curve of her arm, and
her face was so close to the ground that she could
feel the warmth from the sun-steeped needles. A
curious woven murmur seemed to come from the
earth, the sound of unseen life stirring. Sometimes
it took definite rhythm ; it was like an army tramping.
Sometimes it sounded like tiny voices; sometimes
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 3
it was the wide whisper of grass spaces stirred by
wind; sometimes it was like the sea. Always it was
elusive, composite, restless. It was as if the earth-
surface were a delicate telephone that caught all the
sounds of the world's movement and held them, soft-
ened and minimised to one fixed note, a low vibrant un-
dertone, the major key of nature.
Listening half consciously, the girl amused herself,
as she had done since childhood, by trying to fancy
into this murmur a definite significance. At times
it seemed*clear, persistent, as though the next moment
would give her the«keynote that should interpret its
meaning, simplify the whole into a message she could
understand. Often she seemed quite near to it, then
suddenly it was lost; the tenour would shrink and
change. It was always leading her on, to bafHe her
in the end by some unexpected turn, some change
of cadence. It was like those little trodden footpaths
in the wood that were always leading to somewhere
definite, but never reached there, that were full of
beckoning twists and sudden vistas; Indian paths,
the children called them. No one knew who had
first made them, or who kept them trodden. The
old faint trail showed through just the same, spring
To-day, shutting her eyes, she fancied in the sound
4 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
the rustle of countless things growing; tiny creeping
prisoners forcing their bonds; a thousand midget
earth-folk insurgent. She could hear them pushing,
stretching, moving cramped limbs. All the brown earth
was alive, on tiptoe ; the pageant march of summer had
The murmur, restless in itself, wrought in her a.
sense of restfulness, almost stupor. The sun on her
closed eyelids was definitely warm; she seemed to be
looking into a deep rose-coloured haze. She lay with-
out moving, every muscle relaxed, conscious only of
the intimate nearness of the earth, its stir and whisper,
the crooning of the pines overhead, the soft freshness of
the sea air on her forehead.
All at once the harmony was broken and blurred;
the murmur shrank and ceased. Someone was call-
She hitched herself along to the edge of the bank
and peered over. The ground sloped away steeply
to a flat strip of shingle and coarse grass, which met
the water's edge further out in a line of tiny lapping
waves. Some ragged brown nets, with cork floats
attached to them here and there, were spread out to
dry on the ground, and a little square bath-house built
of weather-beaten planks, in shape and size like
a decrepit sentry-box, stood a little back from the
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 5
shore, under the lee of the bank on which she was
lying. Strange groping sounds issued from this fast-
ness, suggestive of a kitten trying to turn round in a
covered basket. A voice was raised in plaintive
"Fan, youVe got one of my garters !"
"You must have. I hung it on a nail, and ifs
"I did look." There was a silence, broken by further
bumps and scuffles, and then the girl on the bank said
"I guess Willie Pearce took it He walked along
here while we were in bathing."
There was a smothered giggle from the sentry-box.
A moment later the door opened outwards and a girl
emerged. She was pretty after a childish immature
fashion, with clear pink-and-white skin — pinker
now than usual from the exercise of rubbing — ^blue
eyes and straw-coloured hair, damp still from the
salt water and twisted low on her round neck. She
wore a faded blue gingham dress that had been made
last year and fitted her gfrowing figure now too tightly ;
It gaped above the waistband as she stooped. She
took up her shoes and stockings from the floor, and
6 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
carrying them in her hand, picked her way carefully,
with bare white feet, across the sand to a log of wood,
where she sat down to put them on.
"I know I hung it on a nail," she insisted again.
"It's in Willie's pocket, sure. You'd better ask
him for it. I don't really call it nice, Phemy, for you
to give your garter as a keepsake to a young man.
You know as well as I do that a girl of your age can't
be too careful in these little matters. Modesty and re-
finement should be above all else a young girl's most
treasured qualities. In saying this, my dear Euphemia,
I am prompted solely by consideration for your wel-
fare. Once the delicate bloom is rubbed from the
surface of the lily " - :• • » .
She had pitched her voice in the key of a certain
pious and respected matron, well-known in the village,
and Phemy, pulling on an obstinate stocking over her
damp foot, giggled appreciatively. Fan, oi^ .thfc bank
above her, continued without a smile.
"There is nothing marks a lady so much as her be-
haviour in little matters of this sort. I'm not joking,
Phemy. I really don't call it nice of you. Now, just
supposing— oh, my Lord !"
In shifting her position she had put her hand inad-
vertently upon a spiky fragment of pine-cone. She sat
upright, shaking back her damp brown hair, and
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 7
pulling it round over her shotilder began to braid
"You needn't spend so much time putting on your
stockings Phemy. Willie Pearce won't come back this
"I don't care if he does!"
Phemy laced her boots— cheap pointed ones with
patent leather tips — and walking back to the bath-house,
picked up the wet bathing suits and proceeded to wring
them out. She made them into two btmdles, each
knotted in a towel, and scrambling up the bank, sat
down by her companion's side.
"Is your hair dry? Mine's awful sticky yet." She
put up a hand to feel it. "I wish't I hadn't got my
head wet, now. It takes such a time dryin'. Yours is
wetter'n mine, isn't it? It's so heavy." She patted her
own yellow locks complacently.
"I want to go down to Hunt's landing to-night"
"Who're you going to meet at Hunt's?"
"No one, I guess. I'm just going down with the
'Want my lace scarf to wear?"
"I don't care. Don't you want it ?"
» "You can have it."
Phemy pulled up a teaberry stem and chewed it, look-
ing out across the river.
8 THE PRICE OE YOUTH
''Did you see Bert Havens in the village this after-
noon?" she said after a moment
"Outside Curzon's. He waved at us. He's gettin'
"Guess he waved at you, Phemy."
Phemy shot a quick glance at her, the teaberry
gripped between her teeth. For the second her blue
eyes looked hard and furtive.
"I guess he thinks he's smart 'cause he wears a
four-dollar Panama!" she said with a short laugh.
"My, it's hot ! I wish we could get home without havin'
to walk all the way."
Fan had finished her plait, and tossed it back over
her shoulder. She drew her knees up, and resting
her head on her folded arms, seemed to be steeped in
the idleness of the hour. The sunlight slanting through
the pine boughs made amber lights and shades in her
hair; her shoulders showed firm straight outlines
under the cotton shirt, damp from the dripping of
salt water. Her hands, clasping her knees, were
strong and tanned, with finely moulded wrists and
long, capable fingers; they were beautiful with the
instinctive beauty of the hand which is trained to
Phemy gave some dissatisfied touches to her hair,
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 9
which clung together in little straight tails. She said
at last, with a mouth full of hair-pins: "You go to
sleep anywhere, just like a cat, don't you ?"
Fan turned her head sidewise, without lifting it.
"Swimming always makes me sleepy," she said. "I
should like to stay here now and sleep for a thousand
"You'd wake up and find everyone dead," said
Phemy, with irritating practicality.
"I wonder if I'd be sorry."
"What a way you talk ! It must be near supper-time.
Am't you hungry ?"
"I'm sleepy. Let's wait here till someone comes
along to give us a lift."
"There won't be anyone."
"There might be."
The breeze stirred again, travelling like a shadow
across the mirror-like surface of the water. It bore
to them a faint distant humming, and Phemy said after
a minute :
"How plain you can hear the wires on the Oceans-
house road. Listen. It soimds like people talking."
"It's the wires talking," said her companion. "They
tell everything that happens, all over the world — ^just
what everyone is doing. Didn't you know that ?" She
shook back the hair from her forehead, and fixed her
10 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
eyes on the other girFs face ; grey uncomfortable eyes,
with curious hazel lights behind them. "Whatever
anyone says or does, all the little mean things they
think nobody knows about but themselves. They
watch and listen, and then tell on them. They told
how much Deacon Allan put in the collection last Sun-
day. You can hear it all if you put your ear to the
pole. Didn't you ever try?"
Phemy sniflfed derisively.
"You try it. How do you suppose people get to
know things the way they do? How do you suppose
old Jakey Rose learns everything that goes on in the
village? He comes out here at night and he puts his
ear to the telegraph-pole and sucks it all in. Jakey'U
turn into a telegraph-pole himself one of these days.
He grows longer and thinner every day — ^you watch
him — and his voice gets sharper and buzzier. Theyll
plant him somewhere along the road and he'll buzz all
day long— about other people's business. He'd rather
do that than go to heaven any day, Jakey would.*'
"Guess he won't get into heaven if he's got to show
"That wouldn't worry Jakey! He'll find some way
of doing St. Peter. He'll ^et around him with incan-
tations. Jakey can do anyone that ever lived, if you
give him time."
THE PRICE OF YOUTH ii
"Mrs, Goble says he can put spells on things," said
Phemy, still chewing her teaberry stem. She said it
with an indifferent air of advancing sc»neone else's
"Of course he can."
"I don't believe it r
"He put a hoodoo on Mrs. Coble's lima beans and
they all grew the wrong way. You ask her T
"Maybe you don't believe in spells?" said Fan.
"Of course I don't. It's all nonsense."
"You don't believe in spirits, but you'd be dead
scared to go by the Quaker burying-grotmd at night,
ever since Dave Allan saw the ghost there."
"He didn't see it."
"All right," said Fan irritatingly. "He didn't."
She smoothed her skirt across her knees, staring at
the opposite shore. "There are spirits all around one,"
she continued gravely after a moment. "Particularly
in pine woods. There is something peculiar in the
nature of pine trees that attracts them, the same way
that steel attracts lightning. Perhaps you didn't know
that?" Phemy giggled uncomfortably. "It's perfectly
true. You can read about it in any good book on
psychic phenomena. The spirits are there all the time,
and under certain conditions they can be materialised.
12 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
Anyone can do it, who has the will power and knows
how to use it."
"Yes, they can!"
"They can. I could — ^you could, if you tried hard
enough." Phemy looked at her with half-convinced
suspicion, and she added immediately : "I bet you'd be
scared to try !"
"No I wouldn't, 'cause I don't believe in it."
"I don't want to."
"I'm not, either ! What's the good of doing things
you know can't happen ?"
"All right. If you know so very much better than I
do, and the people who write the books '*
"What do you have to do?"
"Just concentrate your will power." Fan selected
two straight twigs and placed them crosswise on the
ground. "Move up nearer — that's right. Now you
put your two hands on, so, and I'll put mine on, and we
must both think hard. Just think of the spirit you
want to materialise and nothing else. Concentrate
your whole mind on it. Are you ready?"
Phemy hesitated a moment.
"What's it going to look like ?" she bargained.
^*That I can't say. In broad daylight it will
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 13
probably be obliged to take a material form. It
depends very much upon circumstances. It might
appear in its own shape, or it might take the outward
form of a dog, or a black pig, or a bird, or even a
"Then how are you going to know it?"
"You'll know it," said Fan darkly, "when you see
it. Now you mustn't speak, and you must think hard.
It isn't always easy to do without a lot of practice.
Just think hard!"
They sat there, cross-legged, on the brown pine-
needles, facing each other through several minutes of
intent silence. Fan, her slim fingers stretched tip to
tip against Phemy's squarer ones, stared up seriously
at the blue sky between the pine branches. Phemy,
half giggling, half defiant, stole occasional furtive
glances to right and left. She was never sure how
much of Fan's nonsense was true. A strand of hair
got arcoss her eyes, and she moved her head to shake
"You am't thinking hard enough," said Fan mildly.
"I am so!"
There was a long silence, while the branches rustled
and the sunlight sifted down on the two bare heads,
one smooth and yellow and orderly, the other brown
and roughened. Fan, cross-legged, gazed like a
14 THE PRICE. OF YOUTH
young priestess out of grave mystic eyes. She
watched a dragonfly rise suddenly from the river-
bank and wheel before her, a jewelled flash in the
All at once there came a steady, leisured crunch on
the dry needles. Phemy turned, scattering the sticks
with a stifled squeak, like that of a terrorised rabbit.
The spell had begun to work I
THE spirit whom Phemy had so inadvertently
materialised was to all appearances harmless
enough. It took no more disconcerting form than
that of a young man in a grey knickerbocker suit. He
had dark reddish hair, that straggled across his fore-
head, and a boyish discontented face, marred at pres-
ent by the initial stages of sunburn. He looked hot
and dust-grimed and slightly annoyed. He had a
bicycle with him, which he left against a tree while he
advanced towards them.
"Do you happen to know," he began, "whether any
of these roads around here lead to anywhere?"
Phemy was still smitten speechless by this triumph
of witchcraft. Nevertheless her hand rose instinctively
to her damp, pretty hair, while she surveyed the
stranger sidewise. Fan had not moved. She sat facing
him equably across the scattered sticks.
"Some of them do," she said.
"Oh. Yes. I'm so glad to know. I began to be
i6 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
afraid they didn't. I suppose there's no— cr— distin-
guishing mark to tell which ones?"
"Where do you want to go?"
"It depends on which road is the best. I had some
idea of getting to Matehocken, but it seems to be a
quaint and fruitless ambition. Quite likely there isn't
such a place."
"You've been coming away from it," said Fan.
He glanced at her with what seemed a trick of re-
flective serious impersonal regard, much as he might
have looked at a tree or a stone in which he expected
to discover meaning. "Oh, most probably. It's the
sort of thing one does, down here !"
He found a clear space on the pine-needles and
sat down, with his back against a tree-trunk. He
put his cap on the ground beside him, and taking
out a handkerchief, began to wipe the dust and
perspiration from his forehead. Phemy, covertly
observant, noticed that his hair was thick, and curled
a little where it met the edge of his wilted collar.
She thought critically that if he were clean and
tidy he might be rather better looking, and she
pulled her gingham frock a little further over her
"I feel pretty dirty," he said presently. He spoke
in a low-pitched voice, rather with the effect of find-
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 17
ing words a nuisance, looking about him restlessly
all the while at the trees, the sky, the river. "I
started from Philadelphia at half-past six this morn-
ing, and I've been riding ever since— except what
I've had to walk. I was all right till I got down
here, and then I began to get balled up over the
roads. It seems to me a delightful conceit to call
them roads at all. They're bogs — ^jungles — sand-
heaps I I've pushed that blessed bicycle something
like fourteen miles, and the sand was^over my ankles
every step of the way. I asked a pedlar or some-
thing back there" — ^he indicated the vast sea of scrub-
pine behind him — "and he told me this joad would
take me to Matehocken, Here's where it brought me
Phemy spoke for the first time, unwilling that Fan
should claim the entire conversation.
"Am't you awful tired?"
He turned to glance at her politely.
"Tired? Not at all! It's been delightful. I can im-
agine no more exhilarating way of spending a sirni-
mer vacation than in pushing a bicycle through Jersey
pine forests — with your shoes full of sand. If I should
meet that pedlar ten years hence, when I get rested,
I'm going to assassinate him, by way of a discourage-
ment to local himiour."
i8 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
"Some of the roads here are pretty good for riding,"
"That depends upon whether your wheel happens to
be fitted with toboggan runners or a snow-plough.
Mine has ordinary tires. I found them rather a draw-
He seemed inclined to let the matter of direction
drop, for the present, and leant back, his head resting
idly against the tree behind him, one knee drawn up
and his hands locked round it. Evidently he was in
no immediate hurry to find Matehocken. He made
no apology for his continued intrusion, possibly as-
suming tha^the woods belonged to him as much as
to them. Phemy fell to chewing teaberry again. Fan
eyed him curiously, with the interest of dislike. He
had well-shaped hands, rather too slim for a man's,
she thought; a straight clean-cut mouth and square
chin. A slight disagreeableness of expression, that
might have been habitual or merely the accidental re-
sult of the sun shining directly on his half-closed
eyes, made his face almost ugly. His clothes had
a city cut, but they were well worn, approaching
shabbiness. Her gaze travelled by natural sequence
to his cap, lying on the ground, and noticed a
tiny dark red enamel pennant set in the front
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 19
He opened queer hazel eyes suddenly, before she had
finished her scrutiny, and shot at her a glance that was
half whimsical, half inquiring, and that changed the
expression of his face on the instant. The look seemed
to detect her in an unwarranted interest, and she re-
sented it. She turned her head away and studied the
"Do you care if I smoke?" said the stranger.
Phemy checked a giggle, catching Fan's eye upon
"Not in the least," said Fan.
He felt through his pockets and extracted a short
briar pipe and a box of matches. He lit the pipe, and
the blue smoke curled up round his head.
"It seems to me so unique," he said after a minute,
"to come down to Jersey and get lost this way. I
had no idea I could do it. It's artistic. Anyone
could get lost in Hoboken or Central Africa, but to
get lost in Jersey argues a certain originality. . . .
Fm not sure one can't call it genius. It's a great stunt.
Years after I shall probably look back and
wonder how I did it. Do you know Hoboken at
"Neither do I." He said it as though the fact ar-
gued a cordial link between them. "I have an aunt
20 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
who lives there. I believe she likes it. I have a dim
recollection of going to stay there once when I was
She had looked at him sharply, half suspiciotis that
he was making fun of her, but his face, through the
wreathed tobacco smoke, was wholly serious. "It's
all houses, you know, and I hate houses. Don't you?
They're so depressing."
"Am't there any houses in Philadelphia?" Fan in-
"Yes, I believe so. But one doesn't notice them in
the same way. I have a conviction, probably a survival
from childhood, that every house in Hoboken conceals
an aunt. That's why I preserve a dislike for the place
without ever going near it."
"Are they all youf aunts?"
"Heaven forbid! No, but the idea of it. . . .
Imagine the nightmare of a place that was peopled
by aunts. Streets upon streets of houses, and knowing
that if you opened all the front doors you'd find some-
body's aunt behind each one of them. Of course I
may be wrong. It's just a feeling."
He picked up a twig and poked down the tobacco
in his pipebowl.
"Don't you like relations?" said Fan.
He faced her frankly. "Do you?"
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 21
"I've never bothered much about them."
"I've had to, unfortunately. It's a subject that
has necessarily interested me. I adtnit it's a morbid
tendency, but I don't know that it's any worse than
persistently dwelling upon one's health, or one's
finances, or one's spiritual welfare. This is a nice
He looked round him approvingly at the brown shin-
ing needles, the genista that bloomed in yellow patches
between the trees, the straight grey trunks with the
gleam of jewelled river showing between.
"I suppose you live here?"
"Not very far."
"Nice river r
"I'm glad there's nothing the matter with the river,"
said Fan drily.
Again she met the quick, half-quizzical glance.
"Oh, I should hope not ! I mean it's — rather perfect,
isn't it ? I suppose you come here often ?"
"Yes," said Fan. "I come here in the early morn-
ing and crab. Soft-shelled crabs, you know." She
carefully avoided Phemy's round-eyed gaze. "I sell
them to the cjty people who come down, at fifty cents
a dozen. You see my father's out of work, and there
are eleven children younger than I am. Do you like
22 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
"I'm afraid I don't— not passionately. They are
too much like spiders. I'm so sorry !"
"So am I. Do you mean about the crabs or the
"Oh, both," he answered, with vague sympathy.
"Both. Eleven's rather a lot. . . . Don't they get
under your feet?"
"They get ever)rwhere. We were always rather an
improvident family," she murmured, looking on the
"I see. And do you find that crab-catching pays
"In the summer it does. You see, I supply a great
many of the hotels and private cottages. I have stand-
ing orders with them. I can make as much as seven
dollars a week through the season. Do you feel bad,
Phemy was concealing strange noises behind a
handkerchief. Fan turned grave eyes upon the
"She gets taken like that scwnetimes," she ex-
plained. "It doesn't really hurt her. It's ever since
she had the measles, three years ago. It left her
with a sensitive chest. I have some nice crabs
down there in the fishbox now," she pursued hope-
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 23
"Fm afraid I couldn't carry them," said the young
"They'd go in your pockets! I get oysters, too,
sometimes, but they're harder to catch."
"More agile, I suppose?"
She nodded. He relapsed into a contemplative si*
lence — ^the physical content of the wearied pilgrim —
which lasted until he rose, a few moments later, knock-
ing his pipe out against the tree-trunk and replac*
ing it in his pocket while he gazed reluctantly about
"'And when the sun was low in the west, the Dong arose
"What little sense I once possessed is quite gone out of
my head r"'
"What's that?" asked Fan.
His eyes came back to her swiftly.
"Matthew Arnold, I believe. It's a delightful poem.
I must lend " He broke off, abstractedly picking
a burr from his stocking.
"I think you said you knew where Matehocken
"Oh, yes. Shall I show you your way ?" she added.
"If it isn't troubling you."
Fan stood up, and shook the clinging pine-needles
from her skirt. There was a suggestion of strength
24 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
about her when she moved, a certain outdoor poise and
freedom. She pushed back the hair from her fore-
head, eyeing him seriously.
"I suppose you want the best road?"
"I should prefer it — if there is one."
He fetched his bicycle, and followed her a few
paces to where the trees began to clear, and a
deep sandy cart track wound down toward the river
"You see the road?" she said. "Well, you follow
it right down — ^you'll have to walk the first little bit,
but it isn't far — and it'll bring you out by a signpost
that says. To the Upper Bridge/ You follow that
and when you've crossed the bridge keep straight on
till you come to Meakins' — Qiicken Joe Meakins,
not the other Meakins; you mustn't get them mixed.
It's a house with a red barn. Chicken Joe Meakins.
You can't mistake it. And then you turn off along
what they call the river road and keep right on till
you come to the signpost. It's quite simple."
"It sounds $0. Thanks, immensely. You're a
He paused, leaning across the handlebars of his
"My name's King," he said then, rather as though
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 25
he deprecated the fact. "I don't know whether I may
know yours ?"
"Why, certainly." She hesitated a moment. "It's
"Gubbins," she returned firmly.
"Yes. . . . Thanks. Well, good-bye. How far
did you say it was to Matehocken?"
"I didn't say. But it's just a little ways."
He replaced his cap, and she watched him set ofif
down the path, pushing the bicycle before him through
the heavy sand.
When he had gone some little distance she called —
"Be sure and remember Chicken Joe Meakins !"
He paused, looking back.
She stood smiling at the head of the path, silhouetted
against the background of pine-trunks.
"Chicken — Joe — Meakins I Not the other —
His voice came back to her faintly. Fan walked
back to where Phemy sat giggling on the pine-
"Say, I do call you mean!" Phemy said. "All that
way around. He'll have to walk every step."
26 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
"Do him good."
She leaned back against a pine tree and began to
"He might have bought some crabs. He could eat
them on the way."
"Do you think he was crazy?" said Phemy after a
"I wouldn't wonder."
"Maybe he's stayin' in the village. Say, we might
meet him again."
Her tone seemed to sketch possibilities ofi future ret-
"I guess he's got money. He had awful nice boots
on," said Phemy. "I bet he'll be hopping mad when
he finds out."
Fan picked up her bundle and moved off nonchal-
antly between the trees.
"He shouldn't have been so fresh about our Jersey
roads," she said.
Some twenty yards from the river-bank the trees
grew less closely, and a gleam of yellow showed be-
tween their trunks. The two girls came out upon a
hard clay road that stretched level between the pine
woods on either side. The breeze sang in the stretched
telegraph wires. On one of the gaunt poles, nearljr
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 27
opposite, was nailed a weather-beaten signboard. The
half obliterated lettering read : —
TO MATEHOCKEN Ij4 MILES.
Fan paused, and looked up at it pensively.
"I wish he hadn't gone in such a hurry," she said.
"I ought to have told him that Chicken Joe was my
uncle, and that he could stop at the house and ask
for a glass of milk."
"T DO hope they make you comfortable at Task-
A er's," Mrs. Hewitt said. "I don't know where
else to send you, an* that's a fact It was only
this morning the doctor said it was typhoid, and I'd
been hoping all along it wasn't anything, and it was
too late to telegraph. I thought of Mrs. Powell, but
she's full up, and her sister ain't takin' any boarders
this year so long as she's got her husband bad, and
there isn't anywhere else this end of the town, not un-
less you go down to the beach, and most of the houses
there are full. It's been an awful early season
this year. So I thought you might make out at
Tasker's just for a day or two anyway, and then see.
Some folks mightn't like it on account of it's being
a saloon, but they do take people sometimes. I don't
know what the cookin's like. There was an artist stay-
ing there last summer."
"Oh, if he survived it I should hope I can," the
young man laughed. He stood, swinging his cap
THE PRICE OE YOUTH 29
between his fingers, on the lower step of Mrs. Hewitt's
porch. She would not let him come any nearer, and
she stood now above him, in a position of interven-
tion between himself and the house, repressed energy
in every line of her plain kindly face and trim figure.
She seemed to worry about the illness far more on
his account than on her own. "It's too bad," she said ;
"just as I'd got all fixed up for you and all. I went
over to Tasker's myself this afternoon, as soon as the
doctor'd gone. I didn't see Tasker, but I saw
his daughter. I guess she'll make things comfort-
able for you, if she takes a fancy to. She's queer, but
she'll do it as long as I put it down to obliging
me. I guess they won't be any too sorry to have some-
one in. And you don't have to stay more than the
night if it don't suit you."
"Does the daughter run the house?" the young
man asked. He had visions of an elderly spinster of
uncertain age, who would object to his smoking in
"As much as it is run, I guess. They call it an
hotel, but they don't take regular guests much, not
since Mrs. Tasker died. Tasker makes his money
out of the saloon. They do say round here he's pretty
tough, but I don't know. . . . He's awful particu-
lar some ways. He won't have anyone drunk around
30 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
there. He won't serve 'em. He's the sort of man you
don't want to quarrel with, too ; I guess what he says
She gazed reflectively for a moment on the little
close-cropped lawn, with its tidy flower-bed and ribbon
border gay with verbenas. Through the screen-door
behind her one could catch a glimpse of spotless table-
linen and glassware, and from somewhere came a smell
"I'm awful sorry I can't ask you in, Mr. King," she
apologised, "but I wouldn't like to take the risk of it.
You don't want to get sick again just as soon as you
come down here. I told Fan Tasker you'd want sup-
per as soon as you got in. Had a pretty long ride,
"Long enough. I missed my way, or it wouldn't
have taken me so long."
She looked him up and down in a motherly way.
"I should think you were tired out You look
"I'll be all right when I get a rest. It's been pretty
hot part of the way. It isn't so much of a ride, you
know," he added hastily.
"Maybe not, if you're in good — ^practice for it." She
had been going to say health, but changed the word
with a tact that did not, however, escape him. "Sen-
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 31
sitive, I guess/' she thought as she saw him shift his
"Well, I hope they make you comfortable," she said
again. "You'll know the house, won't you? It's just
a piece up the Heronwood road — ^anyone can tell you.
I had Willie take your bag over this afternoon. It
came by express."
The aspect of Tasker's, upon his amval, did not
strike King very favourably. It was a frame house,
grey and unpainted, standing in a clearing surrounded
on three sides by pine-woods, black in the dusk. The
swing^g arc-lamp outside, which threw a circle of
light on the sandy road, showed up the lettering on a
faded signboard above the front porch :
"The Cedars Hotel. Cyclists' Rest.
Proprietor J. Tasker."
His bedroom was small and square, with white-
washed walls, peeling in places, and one window that
had mosquito netting nailed over it from the outside.
It held no superabundance of furniture, merely a wash-
stand with a chipped pitcher and bowl, one chair and
a tiny bureau of yellow-painted pine. There was a
small looking-glass hung on a nail, and a strip of rag
carpet, unsecured to fche bare floor, which rucked under
32 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
his feet every time he moved. He tried to look out
of window, but could see nothing. It was nearly
dark outside, but from somewhere out of the obscurity
there reached him subdued barnyard sounds, the sleepy
wrangHng of chickens, the rattle of a chain across a
He washed, handling the slip of yellow soap gingerly,
and found his way down the steep uncarpeted staircase
to the sitting-room, where the table was laid, and sup-
per served to him a few minutes later by the same
woman who had shown him to his room. She was lean
and elderly and dejected. Her scanty hair, her skin
and light eyes seemed to tone to one negative hue, the
same pale brownish tint of her limp gingham dress.
Her attitude toward him was one of mingled suspicion,
curiosity, and determination not to put herself out for
stray visitors. She dumped the dishes down on the
table in a haphazard way, and told him in a mournful
high-pitched voice that there were crackers on the side-
board. The information had the value of complaint;
King gathered that she revealed the presence of crack-
ers in the house under protest.
The room held the close indescribable smell of all
country sitting-rooms, mingled in this case with an
odour of spirits and stale tobacco from the bar beyond.
Left to himself. King gazed about him fastidiously at
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 33
the shabby haircloth sofa and chairs, the obliterated
carpet, the soiled blue-patterned walls hung with
insurance calendars and chromo advertisements of
tobacco firms. One, over the fireplace, represented a
soubrette in a much abbreviated bathing-dress and
openwork stockings, smoking a cigarette against a
background of blue sea and yellow sand. There was
a stuflFed fish-hawk, with wings extended rigidly, on a
stand above the sideboard. On the coarse tablecloth
someone had put a china bowl filled with sweetpeas.
Their fragile beauty, their curling tendrils and butter-
fly wings, looked oddly out of place among their sur-
roundings. They made the one touch of freshness in
the room. ICing wondered about them. The woman
who had brought in his tea did not seem the sort of
person to put flowers on a supper-table. It occurred
to him that they might represent a deference rather
to Mrs. Hewitt than himself, a kind of extraneous
effort at having things nice. He remembered with a
grim smile that his chance for comfort, in that lady's
view, had seemed to depend upon Miss Tasker's
"taking a fancy." If she had taken one — and Mrs.
Hewitt had not appeared over-sanguine — it had
stopped short at the flowers. The meat was chippy
and the coffee execrable. King felt too tired to eat,
under discouraging conditions, and he pushed back
34 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
his chair presently, leaving his supper all but untouched,
and wandered restlessly about the room.
Somehow, though he could not tell why, the atmo-
sphere of the house contrived to impress him un-
pleasantly. He was conscious of a dislike for the
place which went deeper than mere fastidious criticism.
He looked about him with a growing disapproval that
almost amounted to condemnation. The air that came
through the mosquito screens at the windows was close
and heavy, charged with the electric oppression of
an impending storm. He had seen it coming up
as he left Mrs. Hewitt's house, blue heavy thunder-*
heads piled against the fading sunset. A few flies
buzzed stupidly near the ceiling, and others were
trying to make their way in through the wire screen.
A moth blundered too near the lamp chimney, and
the smell of its singed body sickened him. He
lit a pipe, and scowled at the mouldering fish-hawk
on the sideboard.
From the adjacent kitchen came the clatter of dish-
washing, and presently a voice, shrill, high-pitched,
quavering, raised in the refrain of a hymn-tune. It
seemed that the singer was chanting aggressively,
determinedly, as in confidence of opposition, accen-
tuating each line with a vigorous assault on the
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 35
'^here man— sions stand in— state— ly rows
A home's pre— pared for— me,
Where I may in thanks— giving dwell
Through all— eter— nity I"
It reached, in growing crescendo, a wild defiance.
One could imagine a whirling of spiritual battle-
axes. King paused, and his mouth curved apprecia-
*'Then glo— ry, glory, let— us sing.
An' glo— ry ever morel
Where an— gel voices ev— er ring
Upon — ^that hap — ^py shore 1"
There was silence for a time, broken only by swash-
ing of water and the rattle of plates. Then the voice
rose again, this time in a tone of calm assertive su-
"I have a Saviour, a loving Saviour,
He has forgiven my every sin.
And He has promised, if 1*11 be faithful "
King yawned, his teeth closing with a snap on the
replaced pipe-stem. The woman in the kitchen con-
tinued to advertise her security in Divine favour. He
heard her relating, in a high treble of pride, how she
was going to be saved, and nobody else was. Her
statements implied, to his thinking, a scarcely justifi-
able slur upon the rest of the household.
36 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
He caught sight of some books on a shelf at one
side of the fireplace, and moved over to them in-
stinctively. There were some odd numbers of maga-
zines, a few tattered paper novels — ^the usual collection
of a country household— and at one end, divided
from these by the current almanac, Walden, The
Odd Number, and a slim vellum-bound edition of the
Rubaiyat. His hand fell on the latter volume at
once, not without a certain sympathy for its position.
It was like meeting on old friend in vulgar circum-
stances. He took the book from its place, smiling
curiously, and as he ruffled the leaves through a
paper fluttered from between them. His eye caught
the written words on it as he stooped to pick it up,
and they seemed to supply the final quaint incon-
"From too much love of living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be;
That no life lives forever,
That dead men rise up never ^**
There was a step in the entry. He slipped the
paper back, closing the book, and returned it with
guilty haste t6 its place as someone came into the
IT was the girl he had met that afternoon on the
river-bank. He acknowledged their acquaintance
with a grim half-smile as she paused just inside the
doorway. Her hair, barely dry yet, was fastened
now in a knot at her neck, and the alteration added
bewilderingly to her age. It changed her from the
short-skirted hoyden into a dignified young woman.
She had a white dress on — the sleeves rolled to her
elbows as the cotton shirt had been — and a bunch of
the same sweetpeas that stood on the table were
tucked into her waistband. King removed the pipe
from his mouth and regarded her steadily.
"Good evening, Miss Gubbins !" he said.
"Good evening," she returned with no trace of
embarrassment. "I came to see whether you had
everything you wanted. Oh, you've finished. There
was more coffee. I guess Mrs. Goble forgot to tell
"I've had everything, thanks."
"It's quite easy to do that, in the pines. I'm afraid
if you lived here long you would have to become a
convert to the simple life."
38 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
"Crabs," he murmured as she went to the table and
began to pile the dishes together. "Or do you keep
those for the permanent boarders?"
"Most of them. Sometimes we eat them ourselves,
on occasions of great festivity."
A scarlet sweetpea had dropped from its fellows
and lay across the tablecloth, and she picked it up and
put it back in the bowl. Then she moved to one of
"Isn't it close?" she said. "There's going to be a
storm. Did you find Chicken Joe's all right?"
"Oh." She kept her back turned to him, looking
out through the mosquito screen.
"I rather gathered that he had a prejudice against
the title you were good enough to bestow on him."
"I'm afraid he has. It's his modesty. He is by
nature simple and unsophisticated."
"I notice," said King, addressing her averted head,
"that you don't have the good grace to be ashamed
She turned, her fingers resting on the window-ledge
behind her. "Did you expect I would ?"
"Not in the least. The nature that finds a joy in
deceiving the innocent wayfarer usually goes hand in
hand with a hardened conscience."
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 39
"Or no conscience at all, I suppose."
"Oh, everyone has a conscience! It's a part of
one's personal furniture. To go about denying that
one has a conscience is nearly as conventional and
unmodem as to go about denying the existence of
God — ^and I should imagine as unsatisfactory. You
can't discard your conscience in practical everyday
life any more than you can discard your boots. But
the normal conscience is never assertive. A sensitive
conscience argues defect, like a sensitive digestion. I
should think that you have a refreshingly normal one 1"
Fan rearranged the flowers at her belt. She hated
people who were dogmatic.
"Did you enjoy Mrs. Coble's singing?" she asked.
"I enjoyed her enjoyment of it."
"She only sings like that when my father's out. I
think it's a way of reassuring her soul while in the
camp of the ungodly."
"Something of that sort."
"I always envy those kind of people their position,
don't you?" he said. "It must be so comfortable to
feel absolutely certain, beyond all danger of argument,
that you yourself are going to be saved, no matter what
anyone else is."
"Mrs. Coble's going to be saved. She told me
40 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
all about it. She's got a passport. She was converted
four years ago at a revival meeting, and she hasn't
gotten over the glory of it yet. She recounts her ex-
periences over the washtub when she comes here to
work. She takes it as a personal affront that I don't
go to church, but if ever I do go it seems to make her
madder than ever. I can't think why."
"Perhaps she's afraid you'll get in ahead of her."
"I wonder. She does the minister's washing, and I
think she's scared, if I get converted, that he'll give it
"Does she live here ?"
"No. She only comes once a week to work — ^un-
der strong protest. She makes no disguise of regard-
ing the household collectively as damned, but she
doesn't mind taking our money so long as it lasts —
seein' it's usl"
"It's a curious fact," said King, "that the godly
usually contrive to exist on the shekels of the ungodly.
One shudders to think what would happen if the un-
godly were ever to be wiped out. There would be a
sudden and extensive begging of bread from door to
"Even the minister's washing wouldn't go far."
"What are five shirts among so many?" King mur-
mured, studying his pipe-bowl.
Fan looked up, and caught the whimsical lift of
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 41
his eyes. There was something amused in them, some-
thing challenging; they seemed determined to get at
the truth of her, and she resented their pertinacity.
She moved back to the table and picked up some of
the supper dishes, preparatory to carrying them out to
"Can't I help you?" he offered.
"Never mind, thanks."
He held the door open for her. As she went out
she paused to say :
"My father won't be back till about ten, I expect.
He had to go over to Heronwood on business. I don't
know whether you care to stay up for him. I hope
you find your room comfortable."
"Thanks. About a lamp . . ." he hesitated.
There had been none in his bedroom.
"Oh, you can take the lamp up out of here when you
get ready," Fan said.
After she had gone he refilled his pipe and wandered
out. The bar, as he passed through, was deserted.
The light gleamed on bottles and glasses ranged in dec-
orous rows, on the big gilt-framed mirror overlaid
with advertisements of whiskey. The floor was strewn
with sawdust. There was a cash-register on one end
of the bar, and at the other a gramophone. Near it
lay part of last Sunday's New York Journal
42 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
He pushed open the sagging screen-door and went
out on the porch. Outside it seemed almost closer
than indoors, airless and heavy. The porch extended
along the front and one side of the house, and he
walked round to the end of it and sat down on a
rocking-chair that was just outside the sitting-room
The mosquitoes were thick. They hummed about
him, settled on his hands and face, barely discouraged
by the tobacco smoke. From the window behind
him the lamplight threw a rectangular flood of light
on the worn boards of the porch, and a blossomless
honeysuckle, twined round one of the wooden pillars,
stood out in relief against the soft darkness. Beyond
the clearing the pines stretched like a black level sea.
The stillness, broken only by the mosquitoes and the
rasping of insects in the weeds, was absolute and
From where he sat he could catch a sidewise glimpse
of the road, lit by the electric lamp in front of the
house. A telegraph-pole stood out grey and gaunt.
Further was a gleam of whitewashed palings, and a
light in some cottage window, that moved presently
and was gone. Once he caught sight of a man and
a girl, walking along the opposite side of the road.
The girl had a light dress that was divided midway
by a horizontal black bar. They vanished up the
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 43
shadow of a side path, enfolded and lost in the purple
A yellow waggon drove by presently, toward the
village. He could hear the growing rumble of
wheels on the clay road long before it came into sight
Later, a cyclist passed. Neither stopped at the
There was another vacant chair near to his on the
porch, and he wondered whether the girl would come
out. He could hear her moving about, at intervals, in
the room behind him, and a shadow occasionally ob-
scured the lamplight. Once he fancied he heard voices,
and the tinkle of the cash-register. He fell to specu-
lating curiously about his fellow-guests. If he had
any, they were not in evidence. He rather gathered
that the girl was alone in the house. He wondered
how many nights a week Tasker had business at
Heronwood, and how, in this isolated spot, a mile from
the village, he managed to make the saloon pay at
all. Business, from what he had seen, did not appear
to be brisk. The place had a look of shiftlessness, al-
most neglect; an air of depending indifferently upon
Added to the physical weariness from his ride, the
pines began to exert upon him a drowsiness, a leaden
spell of stupor. He could scarcely keep his eyes open.
He stretched and looked at his watch; it was barely
44 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
ten o'clock. He thought of going up to his room, but
felt too tired to stir from where he sat. The working
strain of the past eighteen months, culminating in the
breakdown that had sent him away, had been a
heavy one. Out here free for the first time in
many months from the noise and turmoil of the
city, its ceaseless demands upon nerves and brain, it
began to tell upon him all at once. He was al-
most too overtaxed to be immediately glad of the
respite. The din of the newspaper ofiice was
still in his ears. It seemed impossible to realise
that for three months he was to be absolutely idle.
He leaned his head back against the chair and
stared out at the dark enclosing pine-woods in a
kind of restful half consciousness.
For some time past the storm had been drawing
closer, the air heavier. Presently a near-at-hand
peal of thunder broke the stillness, and he roused to
hear the first sweeping patter of the rain on grass
and weeds. It had a soothing sound. He rose,
stretching his stiflFened limbs, and went to the edge of
the porch. A fresh dampness met his face with the
grateful smell of the wet earth. The air had grown
cooler all at once with the breaking of the storm, and
the electricity magically dispelled his drowsiness; he
felt keenly awake and rested.
A white blur caught his eye, moving leisurely
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 45
between the pine trees across the clearing. Coming
nearer, he saw that it was Fan Taskcr. She was
bareheaded and walked slowly, her skirt held up
from the drenched ground; once in a while she
paused, lifting her face to meet the sweep of the
rain. The slowness of her movements, her non-
chalant ease out there in the path of the storm,
somehow fascinated him. He took the pipe from
his mouth and stood watching her as she came
imhurriedly nearer. When she was quite close, in
the light from the sitting-room window, she turned
her head and saw him.
"The storm's come," she said. "I thought it
would. It's going to be a bad one."
"I love cheerful prophets I Do you know you're
getting rather damp out there?" he added.
"It won't hurt me." She stepped up on the
porch, and shook out her wet skirt. The movement
revealed inadvertently that she had no stockings on.
"I just went round to the bam to see if the horse
was shut in all right. They hate lightning so."
"Do you get many storms round here?"
"A good many. They follow the river. Why?
Do you mind them?"
He looked at her reflectively.
"I don't know that I do. But they put rather
46 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
pertinent questions, don't you think? There are
times when, one's appreciation of a thunderstorm is
determined by the value one places on one's own
existence. That's all very well, but when it comes
to a question of the value Providence places on one's
existence it's humiliating."
"Always assuming Providence places any," said
Fan, who talked for the sake of talking.
"One has to assume something."
"It's very comfortable if one can take things for
granted," she said.
"It's not merely comfortable, it's necessary."
She turned her head, leaning against the pillar.
"To believe in things you can't prove?"
"To take them for granted," said King. "The
curse of the age is the fatal facility for disproving
ever)^hing. You can sit still in an armchair and
disprove the whole mechanism of the universe, if it
aflFords you entertainment. The exercise has ap-
pealed always to me as peculiarly dreary. It's the
sort of thing that doesn't give you any satisfaction
when it's done. The fact that we are here at all
argues that we are here for a purpose, and we have
the potential value of that purpose. It all reverts,"
he went on, knocking out his pipe, "to the question
of whether we consider the scheme of creation to
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 47
have been wholly humorous and irresponsible — ^in
which case the humour seems of doubtful taste— or
whether it is to be taken- as serious. If it's a joke»
it is a joke of such colossal proportion and com-
pleteness that we ought to reverence it. Its humour
is more awe-inspiring than mere seriousness. I beg
pardon," he added abruptly. "I am transgressing
upon the province of the lady who sings hymns over
"And who is at this moment," said Fan, "on her
knees in a very stuffy back kitchen, with all the
shutters fastened, praying to be excused from im-
mediate tenancy of her gilded mansion." She pulled
a dead leaf from the honeysuckle. "Isn't it funny,"
she said, "that religious people are always so afraid
"It isn't peculiar to them."
She turned grey curious eyes upon him.
"Not at all — ^in the abstract. I share the general
prejudice against dying at any specified time. Nobody
minds dying to-morrow, but there are always a
hundred reasons for finding it inconvenient to-day.
If a wild-eyed man advanced upon you now with a
hatchet and said, 'Prepare to meet thy Maker!' you
wouldn't stand still."
48 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
*Td want to see what he was going to do."
"No you wouldn't. You'd say, 'Sir, not for myself
do I indulge in selfish objection. But I pray you
reflect that I have seventeen small brothers and
sisters who look to me for daily bread, wherefore
must I descend forthwith to the river which floweth
hard by in the county of Monmouth and take seventy
times seven crabs ' "
"I could scare up a better one than that," she
interrupted. "And it wasn't seventeen. It was
eleven. Don't confuse your facts."
"It might as easily have been seventeen. How
frightful," he reflected, "if we were to be punished
by having our lies come true! What an awful con-
ception of Nemesis! I was travelling once with a
man who tried to palm himself off as a bishop; he'd
have had a dreadful awakening. Supposing a relent-
less fate this afternoon had frozen you into the eldest
daughter of a multitudinous family. How I'd have
gone on my way rejoicing!"
"I should have come home and given them Paris
green in their tea."
"I believe you would," he said, looking at her. "I
can imagine you would have the courage of your
opinions in little matters of that sort."
The lamplight from the window caught her face
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 49
and hair as she half sat, half leaned, against the
porch rail, with an almost boyish ease and indiffer-
ence of pose. Behind her the lightning played in
quivering sheets and flashes, revealing sudden vague
outlines against the sky, tossed trees and jagged
foliage. The rain was falling in torrents now, with
a steady solid impact on the shingled roof, a scythe-
like sweep in the grass. It poured off the eaves
and ran down the gutter-pipe with the noise of a
Fan stretched out her hand to feel the drops on it.
"It's better than being in the house, don't you
think ?"»she said presently. "I hate being indoors in
a storm. We can go in if it gets worse."
King thought of the little close sitting-room with
the kerosine lamp.
"Oh, it's nice here." He passed his hand across
his forehead, watching the lightning. "I felt so
sleepy, a while back," he said. "I suppose it was
the pines. They have a tremendously restful effect."
"They reflect the local character," said Fan. "You
needn't apologise. The analogy is so obvious." ^
"My dear lady, I trust even a thunderstorm
wouldn't render me so craven as to apologise for
an analogy I never made !"
"I beg pardon for confusing you with the Sunday
so THE PRICE OF YOUTH
He looked at her with contemplative reverence.
"Do you really read them?"
"Oh, we get them sometimes. Round the butter,"
"I wondered where you got your education," said
King brutally. "A little reflection of course might
have told me."
"We have a circulating system, in the winter.
Each family gets a pound of butter a week, and we
exchange the wrappers. I've picked up quite a lot
that way. There are compensations, even in the
"Don't you have — what do they call them — spell-
ing-bees? Or is that purely a Boston institution?"
"Oh, yes. The minister gets them up every third
Friday in the month. We all sit round on the floor,
and he starts the word at the head of the class. The
only trouble is that one forgets in the summer what
one learned in the winter."
"You interest me," said King. "I shall be so glad
when I get back to town to contradict certain preva-
"About the benighted condition of New Jersey
aborigines. Oh, I can tell you a lot. We have a
Chautauqua .branch, too."
"I shall remember about the butter," he promised.
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 51
"You might induce someone to start a Butter
Mission for the Dissemination of Useful Literature
among the Local Unreclaimed."
"But what do you do in winter?" he asked,
changing his tone. "I should think it must be rather
She shot a quick glance at him.
"That's what all the city people say. There was
an artist came down here one winter, and he raved
about the place. He stayed at the hotel down by the
station. He stood it out till Christmas and then he
left because the steam-heating apparatus broke down."
"You don't like it?"
"Oh, I like it. I suppose one gets to like any place
if you live there all the time and never go anywhere
else. It's a dispensation of providence. You believe
in that, don't you?"
"I'm afraid I do. I know it's a hopelessly old-
"IVe often thought I'd like to get hold of a real
optimist," said Fan, "and invite him down here for
a month in the middle of January. I bet he'd recant !"
"Oh, most probably. Someone has defined opti-
mism as the quality which enables one to bear up
under other people's misfortunes. Have you many
neighbours round here?"
52 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
"Yes," said Fan thoughtfully.
"Who was the girl that was with you this after-
"Phemy Martin. She comes here to help with the
house. She lives up the road, that little white house
you pass, with all the flowers outside. She's a niece
of Mrs. Coble's. By the way, she reproached me for
misdirecting you this afternoon."
"Yes? I'm glad there's some principle extant in
"She said it was a pity to send you all that way
round because you had such nice boots on," said Fan
"I shall take the earliest opportunity of thanking
her. Does she always giggle like that?"
Fan's mouth straightened a little.
"Phemy's a nice girl," she said. "And she's a good
The quizzical flicker passed across his eyes again.
He bent forward and gravely knocked his pipe out
against the rail. Then he rose, and for a moment
they stood side by side, looking out. The storm was
almost overhead now, and the lightning came in
incessant flashes. It seemed to twist and run like a
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 53
snake across the wet surface of the yard, taking a
hundred shapes as it fled. Suddenly, following a
momentary lull in the storm, a flash more vivid than
the rest divided the sky with a jagged line of white
fire, like a contorted sword, and from it there fell
what looked like a ball of quicksilver. It seemed to
hang suspended against the blue-black of the sky,
then drop slowly, a living silver streak, into the dark
far-reaching sea of pines. King held his breath; it
was barely a second, but it seemed to him to have
taken minutes to travel from sky to earth. Then
came a splintering venomous snarl that split and
gathered and broke again, shivering crash on crash.
The house rocked to the impact.
King turned to the girl at his side. She was lean-
ing far out over the rail, her lips parted and her face
"Did you see that?" she cried. "It struck some-
thing. You could hear."
He put his hand on her arm.
"Come inside. You arn't safe there."
Fan laughed, shaking back the wind-tossed hair
from her forehead. She turned, slipping from him
and ran down the porch steps. For a moment her
face mocked him through the lightning flashes that
54 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
played about her. It seemed as if the spirit of the
storm had got into her blood.
"Come back," he called. "Where are you going?"
She did not answer, only laughed again, impishly,
and he set his teeth and ran after her. His feet sank
into clay and puddles and the rain whipped against his
face. He could catch the white mothlike glimmer of
her dress ahead of him, between the lightning flashes,
and in the bluest quiver of all he saw her for a second
illumined, hair and eyes and reckless lifted chin.
Then, as the lightning failed, the impression was-
wiped out. He stumbled through warm rain-smitten
He was within a hand's-breadth of her when a
strange blood-coloured flash leaped almost under his
feet, writhing like a live thing and prolonged, it
seemed to him, through blinding moments. He flung
out his arm, instinctively, and a cool strong hand
caught his out of the darkness, dragging him forward.
Overhead something crashed and fell.
SHE half dragged, half carried him back to the
house — ^it was barely a dozen yards, and he was
a slight weight to her strength — and got him into
one of the chairs in the bar. Phemy was in there, a
small crouched figure in sopping muslin. She sprang
to her feet as Fan came in.
"Oh, Fan, ain't it awful! It come on so sudden.
I was up the road. Oh, Fan, whatever's happened?
Is he dead?"
"No!" said Fan sharply. Her teeth were set tight
with the exertion of lifting, and her wet skirt got
about her feet and impeded her movements. In the
excitement of the moment she forgot to wonder at
Phemy's presence there, at that time of night. She
dragged King to a chair and put him in it ; his whole
body seemed to go limp in her hold. "He's only
hurt, and he fainted. That dead limb off the cherry
tree fell and hit him; I knew it would hurt saneone
one day. Get me down the brandy."
She loosened his collar, while Phemy went blindly
to the shelf behind the bar.
56 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
"Which bottle is it? I can't find it! Is it one of
A flash danced along the shining glassware before
her and she put up her hands to her face with a
smothered cry. Fan pushed past her roughly and
caught up one of the star-labelled bottles and a
glass. She tried to force the brandy between his
teeth, but they were clenched, and the greater part of
it went down her sleeve. She shook back the wet
hair that kept getting in her eyes and tried again.
Some drops found their right way this time. She
fancied his closed eyes contracted a little, as with
pain. His hands were icy cold and damp, and his
face, white against the dark ruffled hair, looked
almost unearthly. Pallor accentuated its delicacy;
it looked like the face of some dead martyr in a
Phemy, in a comer of the big lighted room, was
paralysed with fear, a pitiful heap of muslin and
spoiled ribbons. Her pretty round face was strained
and unnatural. She cowered at each crash of thunder
as at a whip-lash. Had Fan been in a mood to
notice, she would have seen sanething more than
mere physical terror of the storm in her wide
shrinking eyes ; the deep abiding fear of an un-
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 57
"Oh, Fan, ain't it awful!" she kept saying. "Ain't
it awful! Do you think it'll strike us? I know it
will! It's awful. Oh, God 1"
She began to pray hysterically, her face buried in
her shaking hands.
"What's the matter with you?" Fan flung over her
shoulder. "Get off the floor. You never used to be
scared of storms like this. What do you think's
going to hurt you, you little fool?"
"But I am, I am/ I'm scared of this one! O — oh,
She got to her feet, and stood trembling from head
to foot, her hands clenching and unclenching them-
selves wildly in her drenched muslin skirt. At
another time Fan would have laughed. Now she
turned on her savagely.
"Don't stand there looking dumb! Get to the
telephone if you can't do anything else. Call up
Doctor Connolly for me."
She bent over the unconscious figure in the chair.
Phemy went cringing to the telephone and fumbled
with the printed card.
"What's his number ? I can't find it !"
"Oh, fifty something! Be quick!"
A peal of thunder, as she laid her hand on the
telephone, made her crouch and dodge.
58 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
"Fan, I dasn't touch it! I dasn't. I'm scared to.
It ain't safe in a storm, with the fuse in an' all 1"
The bell rang out, a nervous electric jangle.
"I can't hear a thing. It's all buzzin'," Phemy
whimpered. "I guess it's gone wrong."
"You little fool, get away then! Let me come."
She caught the receiver out of the girl's hand,
almost flinging her aside. "Now look on the card
and find his number. Hurry up!"
She rang up again and waited.
"Fifty-three. Oh, Fan, you'll be struck!"
"Hello! Hello. . . . Give me fifty-three, please.
Fifty-three. Doctor Connolly."
She spoke unhurriedly and distinctly, her eyes still
drawn to the slight limp figure across the room. The
whole room seemed keyed, expectant. The lamp
made points of light on the tumblers and bottles
ranged behind the bar, and each point was an eye
watching. It was hours before the confused buzz at
the other end of the wire became intelligible.
"Hello ! Hello! Is that Doctor Connolly? This
is Tasker — Fan Tasker. Can you come over?
There's been an accident — ^what? . . . No, a tree-
branch hit him. I say a tree-branch "
The voice at the other end drew to an indeter-
minate hum. The connection was lost again. "Oh,
damn!" she said sharply.
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 59
"Hello! Yes, I can hear you. Something crossed
the wire, I guess. Tasker. Yes. ... All right.
Hello? No, only stunned. I think his arm's
She rang off, hanging up the tube, and went back
to King. His face looked ghastly to her. The smell
of the spilled brandy clung to his clothing. She
tried moving his left arm gently, and he groaned.
Phemy drew near, fascination and curiosity working
against her fear. She gave a little cry.
"Oh, Fan, he's bleedin'! It's all over your dress.
Fan looked down. There was a smudge of
crimson on the front of her bodice.
"It's only a scratch," she said. "Don't look like
that! Did you never see anyone faint before?"
Phemy caught her breath.
"He's dead. I know he's dead! Look at him!"
She spoke with hysteric resignment, gripped in the
awe of fate. "I wish the storm'd stop. Oh, ain't
it ever goin' to stop!"
"You might think you wanted him to die, for all
the use you've been to prevent it! I tell you he's all
right. Do you think I don't know? Hand me that
She worked in a cool, dogged silence, as if she
6o THE PRICE OF YOUTH
were fighting against some tangible enemy. Pre-
sently the colour came back to his face a little,
making it less death-like. He opened his eyes,
looking at her in a dreamy, fixed way, then closed
them again. The wandering look haunted her.
She tried to think how long it would be before the
doctor could get to the house. He would have to
drive, unless he came on his motor-cycle through
the rain, and there would be the horse to put in.
Forty minutes, certainly. She looked at the clock.
Phemy was sobbing still. The girl's helpless
terror, added to her own strained nerves, seemed
more than she could bear.
She looked at her with a passionate contempt.
"What's the matter — scared still? Do you think
God's got nothing better to think of than killing
"I— don't knowl"
The answer was awed, hopeless. There was almost
a dignity in it, the dignity of a final resignment.
Phemy's blue childish eyes held a deeper fear than
Fan guessed. She turned away with a short, hard
"I guess you needn't worry !"
The storm had decreased in violence, passing over
slowly to the westward. The lightning was less
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 6i
vivid, and the thunder came at longer intervals.
The worst of it was over.
Presently Phemy began to laugh. It was the
hysteric reaction from fear. She giggled mirthlessly
through chattering teeth.
"Oh, Fan, you looked so mad when you went to
the 'phone! There you was swearin' "
"If you don't stop that noise," said Fan intensely,
"I'll kill you whether God does or not !"
There was a slushy grating of wheels outside,
drawn to a pause in the yard. A horse's hoofs
clattered, and someone swore roughly. It was her
father returned from Heronwood.
MRS. HEWITT had company. She had taken
off her apron and sat out on the breezy end
of the porch, rocking with brisk nervous energy, her
mind divided between hospitality and a desire to
return to her household gods. The company sat
opposite to her, rocking also; a stout placid woman
in a tight-fitting dress of brown cotton. She had
walked up the road from her house without a hat —
the fashions of city visitors set a pace which Mate-
hocken also followed, though soberly and always
within respectable limits — and her black sunshade
was leaned carefully against the porch-rail beside her.
A cool sea breeze tempered the July heat, and set
the little aspen at the side of the house twinkling.
The front lawn was enclosed from the sidewalk by
a low ornamental paling, painted light chocolate, like
the house. It was a comparatively new house, and
hardwood finished inside. The hall and rooms were
big and airy, and all the mosquito screens fitted.
Everything about Mrs. Hewitt's house looked tidy
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 63
and well cared for ; the very verbenas and phlox in
the front garden grew better than other people's
flowers, if one excepted the riotous blaze of colour
that overran the ground about Mrs. Martin's cottage,
a mile up the road. She had a genius for manage-
ment, but her management was never of the kind
that would make a house unhomelike. People who
once boarded at Mrs. Hewitt's generally came again,
summer after summer.
"I'm glad Joey's better," said Mrs. Powell, the
visitor. "Minnie told me he was, but I didn't know,
an' I thought this afternoon bein' cooler it'd be a
good chance to come over and see. I haven't seemed
to get any time before, I've been so busy."
"Yes, he's better," said Mrs. Hewitt, rocking.
"The doctor don't seem to think it could have
been typhoid now. I just think he took a chill in
swimmin', an' I've stuck to it all along. But you
never know what anything like that may turn to,
an' he seemed to think it was, anyway, an' he got
me all worked up about it. I'm awful glad, because
I've got a family from Wilmin'ton wants to come
down, first week in August, an' I'd made up my mind
I wouldn't be able to take 'em. But I can now, so
long as Joey'll be all right again. Doctor Bain's
dreadful fidgetty; he'll always give ever)rthing a long
64 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
name, if he can. I wished I'd had Doctor Connolly
in, from the first. I don't like him, but he's real
clever. Only we've always had Doctor Bain, some-
how, an' you don't like to change. He'd be ten
minutes just takin' Joey's temperature, an' he used
to get me nearly crazy. A regular old woman he is.
I couldn't stand to have him fussin' round me if I
was sick; he'd drive me wild. Thank goodness, I
never am!" She laughed cheerfully. "I always say
I've got too much to do to put in time bein' ill."
Mrs. Powell took out a large hemstitched handker-
chief and fanned herself with it.
"Doctor Connolly's attendin' that young man over
at Tasker's, ain't he?"
"Yes. They called him up over the 'phone, an* he
rode over on his motor-cycle through all that storm.
I was just gettin' ready to shut the house up, an' I
saw someone go past, an' I thought, 'There's Doctor
Connolly.' I wondered where on earth he could be
goin' to, out that way, an' I thought maybe it was
Mrs. Hopkins, an' I didn't think it could be yet. I
was awful puzzled. I never thought of Tasker's.
Wasn't that the queerest thing, though ?"
"The first night he came down, an' all."
"And he was standin' on the porch here, seven
o'clock that same evening, talkin' to me. He'd ridden
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 65
down from Philadelphia — I told you, didn't I? — ^an'
I couldn't take him. It was the very day the doctor'd
got me all upset about the typhoid, an' I didn't know
which way to turn, an' I fixed up for them to take
him in there. It made me feel awful responsible
when I heard about it. I had to apologise because
I couldn't even ask him into the house, after him
comin' all that way."
"Did you know something about him?" asked
"Nothin' except that Mr. Bray sent him. You
know Mr. Bray that was here boarding last summer?
He told him about me, an' Mr. King wrote for a
room a week before he came. I guess he'd been ill
or something. He looked awful delicate. I noticed it,
talkin' to him, an' that was one reason that made me
so scared to have him in the house. He looked just
ready to take anything that was going. Delicate
folk do, much quicker'n strong ones. When I first
saw him, I thought, 'I wouldn't have you come into
a house where there's sickness, young man, for a
hundred dollars!' An' that's what the doctor said
about him too. He said it was nervous shock comin'
on top of a delicate constitution, just as much as the
hurt. He was unconscious two hours and a half,
Mrs. Martin told me. Phemy Martin was in the
66 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
house when it happened. She was stayin' there out
of the storm."
"He broke his collar-bone, didn't he?"
"Broke it to splinters." Mrs. Hewitt appeared to
rock with positive appreciation. "It was the queerest
thing how it ever happened. The dead limb off
that old cherry tree round at the side broke in the
storm an' fell on him. If it had hit his head square
it'd have killed him on the spot."
"What I want to know," said Mrs. Powell
solemnly, "is what they was doin' out there under
the cherry tree in a thunderstorm — ^that time of
She paused, as on the brink of a conclusion too
awful to be drawn and yet too precious to be
ignored. Mrs. Hewitt smoothed out a crease in
"Oh, well," she said, "you know what Fan Tasker
is. Like as not they just got to foolin' round. I
don't believe myself that there's half the harm in
Fan that folks say there is. She just does crazy
things, an' she don't seem to know herself how crazy
they are, half the times. I guess "
"There's crazy things an' crazy things," said
Mrs. Powell solidly, as one who draws a division.
"An' there's judgments for doin' 'em, too, some-
times," she pointedly added.
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 6?
Mrs. Hewitt looked uneasy.
"I don't see anything in that," she said. "I don't
see but what an old dead limb's liable to fall on
anybody. Cherry trees are awful brittle anyway."
"I don't say but what it mightn't. All I say is,
what was they doin' for it to fall on 'em?"
"Of course it was late. Fan's awful foolish, some
ways. She don't seem to think of things. An'
Tasker don't either. I blame most of it on Tasker.
You'd think he would. But he's awful funny about
her. He don't seem to care. It's a great pity.
And — well, I don't like gossip as you know, but you
know the way folks got to talkin' about him since
Mrs. Tasker died. Of course they did before, but
Fanny was younger then, an' it didn't matter so
much. It don't seem the right sort of house for a
girl to grow up in. She ought never to have come
back here after she left school."
"I never saw no good yet of lettin' a girl run wild
the way Fan does," said Mrs. Powell, with a sort of
resignation that was partly enjoyment, "an' I don't
believe there ever will."
Mrs. Hewitt looked at the flower-bed with her
reflective, kindly gaze.
"I've often said I wished Fan could go right away
an' live with nice folks somewhere. It'd do her all
/v^>■ ■.:■:,■ "vv--
68 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
the good In the world. They ought to have, re-
lations, you'd think. I heard Mrs. Tasker's people
were real nice; she ran away to get married. It's
a pity Fan can't go an' stay with some of them. I
said so last summer, when there was all that silly
Mrs. Powell appeared to rear at the qualification
"silly." She leaned back till her comfortable weight
filled the rocker.
"She writes to him still, don't she?"
"I don't know. I guess so. She don't mail the
letters at the office here, if she does."
"H'm," said Mrs. Powell.
"I never believed there was all that between them
that folks said there was."
"I guess there ain't smoke without some fire. If
Fan Tasker don't want to get talked about she
shouldn't do the things she does. I know I heard
enough last summer to open my eyes."
Mrs. Hewitt brought the conversation back wisely
to its starting-point.
"Mr. King's gettin' on all right, they say. He
had a pretty narrow escape. I want to get over to
see him ; I thought of goin' this evening, after we
get through supper. I can't help feelin' as if I had
something to do with it, for the life of me. An' he
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 69
looked so bad. I hate to see a young fellow his age
so slim. I'd worry about him awfully if he belonged
to me. Fan's been nursin' him, right through."
"I know," said Mrs. Powell. "And I don't think
"Someone had to. They could have got Mrs..
Goble, but I don't believe she'd be much account,
an' she couldn't have stayed there all the time. Fan
can be practical, if she once takes hold of things.
Doctor Connolly said she'd fairly brought him round
by the time he got there. I heard he was real
pleased with the way she did, an' he's an awful
brusque sort of man. I could never get on with
him. They say he'd call you a fool as soon as look
at you, if you didn't do what he thought right."
"She don't know that about nursin'," said Mrs.
"Maybe not. An)rway that's what he said. You
know, I kinder like Fan," she added apologetically.
"You can't help it somehow. She's queer, but she's
awful good-hearted. I know when Bessy was sick
last winter she'd come over here an' read to the
child, day after day. She didn't mind what weather
it was: she'd come right along with the snow up to
her waist nearly. I tried talking to her a bit then.
She seemed so nice, an' I thought it was a pity she
70 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
shouldn't know the way people spoke. She didn't
say anything, but I could tell she was gcttin' mad
at me. She can be dreadful stand-offish, just like her
father. So I let it go. She ain't been near the
house much since. I don't think I've spoken to her
for goin' on two months till the day I went over
about Mr. King."
"Do you suppose he'll stay on there now ?"
"I don't know. I wouldn't wonder, if he can put
up with the way things are run. I won't be able to
take him in now, not if that Wilmington family
comes. An' I don't believe he could afford it down
at the beach anywhere. He said something about it,
an' I supposed the way he said he hadn't got much
"I wonder what he's payin' at Tasker's?" mused
Mrs. Powell. "Tasker ain't the man to take folks in
out of charity. I wouldn't be surprised if he was
payin' six dollars a week. Mrs. Goble came to do
washin' for me last Tuesday, an' she says he's got
the front bedroom, that one over the side porch. An'
there's that drummer's been stayin' there; he's only
in at nights, an' he has one of the back rooms out
over the wing, an' I know he pays three'n a half for
Mrs. Hewitt smiled.
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 71
"Owes it, don't he?"
"I guess Tasker gets it back on him over the
drinks! Tasker's ain't much of a place to board."
"I told him I guessed the cookin' wern't much.
City folks are partic'lar, generally. Maybe it suits
him. And that reminds me. Curzon Has taken over
that new casino down by the beach; the one Hender-
son lost money over last summer. Jim was tellin' me
"You don't say ? Wonder if he'll make it pay."
"Jim was down there, an' he said they seemed
pretty busy. He's put in two clerks an' a manager."
"You'd have thought he had enough to do lookin'
after the hotel !"
And then the two good women fell to discussing
the fortunes of the house of Curzon.
THE young man who had aroused the solicitude
of the neighbourhood lay in a hammock slung
between two pine trees at the side of the hotel. The
clearing was also in intent a garden ; there was grass
and the inevitable flag-pole, white painted, and two
halves of casks, painted also, and filled with earth
and trailing plants. Beyond the grape trellis at the
back of the house one could see a vegetable patch,
rows of beans and neglected tomato vines over-
running their stakes, and some dishevelled raspberry
canes. A peach tree stood by itself in the middle of
an asparagus-bed run to seed.
The hammock was bleached by successive rains
and sagged low, so that King could keep one foot on
the ground as he lay in it. His left arm was in a
sling still, but he had taken it out now to rest it
stretched at his side. His other arm hung idly over
the hammock-edge and he was staring up through
the shifting network of branches at the blue sky.
An attenuated black kitten sat in the hammock
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 73
Fan sat cross-legged on the grass near by, studying
the portraits of certain actresses which formed the
popular feature of a ten-cent magazine. She had on
a dark golf-skirt and a shirt-waist — ^phenomenally
tidy for Fan — ^with a silk scarf knotted round the
low turned-down collar, loosened to show a triangle
of white straight throat. She nursed one ankle while
she read, drawing it closer to her with little absent-
minded hitches that gauged her absorption in the
book. She took a profound and critical interest in
pretty faces of her own sex.
An antique buggy, drawn by a rusty horse with a
green fly-net on, passed the house at a leisurely trot.
Fan looked up from the magazine.
"There's the mail gone by," she said. "He's late.
I'll go down on the bicycle in a minute and see if
there are any letters for you."
"There won't be."
"How do you know?"
"For the reason that when I go away on a vacation
I never give anyone my address. There ought to be
a law against delivering letters in the summer. When
you get a letter you have to answer it, unless you
have the strength of mind to stack them aside un-
opened. Would you mind taking Luke-and-John ?
He's got his legs tangled."
Fan reached out a hand from where she sat and
74 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
extricated the black kitten from the hammock
meshes. Luke-and-John hitched protesting claws
into King's coat sleeve and cursed after the simple
homely manner of his kind.
"Luke-and-John's language is unscriptural/' Fan
remarked, balancing the kitten on her knee. ''He
will have to reform. Sit up, Luke, and don't look at
your aunt like that. I resent it."
"That kitten is impervious to grace," said King,
watching it. He gave a push with his toe and set
the hammock swinging. Fan turned.
"You've worn that grass away till it looks like the
back of Deacon Allan's head."
"I'm so sorry!" He tried to see over the edge of
the hammock and failed. "Is he real or a local
figure of speech ?"
"He is one of the pillars of our church. You'd
get on with him; he has a strong sense of humour.
Whenever any gypsies camp around here the deacon
goes out in the dark of the moon chicken-stealing.
He levels it up by praying for the gypsies in
church, that they may be enlightened from their
wickedness. There were some down here last summer
— ^they camped back in the woods — and the Allans
lived on chicken for nearly three weeks. The deacon
explained that so long as the gypsies stole his
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 75
chickens anyway, he 'lowed he might as well save the
rest by eating them I"
King laughed. "He must pray: 'Oh God, of thy
bounty send us gypsies I' "
"He believes in God helping those who help them-
selves. Most of the people do, down here." She
clasped her hands around her knees. "Between
them they relieve the Lord of many minor responsi-
bilities. Look. Someone coming up the road."
A black-and-white dot was moving with brisk
decision along the shady side of the road from the
village. Fan watched with keen eyes.
"Guess it's company for you, Mr. King."
"I sincerely trust not I"
He twisted round in the hammock to get a better
view. "It's someone coming for beer," he suggested.
"No. It isn't a beer walk. It's Mrs. Hewitt, I'll bet
you what you like. She's come to see how you are."
"Do you mind telling her I died last night?"
"Certainly I won't. You'll have to see her. She'll
cheer you up." Fan glanced at him maliciously.
"I wonder she hasn't been over before. She'll be
sure to ask you how you get along with the cooking,
and whether we give you enough to eat. Don't tell
her for heaven's sake we had chipped beef for supper
four days last week."
"I call two of the times ham."
ye THE PRICE OF YOUTH
"Do. It sounds more respectable. And if she
asks about chicken, we've had it twice since you
"What on earth "
"I expect you'll get lots of callers now," Fan con-
tinued calmly. "They'll want to find out whether
Mrs. Coble's accounts are true."
Mrs. Hewitt had reached the front porch, where
she hesitated a moment. She caught sight of the
hammock then, and came over the grass towards
them, a brisk little figure in black-and-white lawn.
Fan rose, holding Luke-and-John in hfer arms, and
went forward to meet her.
"How do you do, Mrs. Hewitt?" she said. "I
was just saying it looked like you coming. Isn't it
hot to-day ? I'll get you a chair out."
She fetched a chair from somewhere adjacent, and
set it down on the grass under the shadow of the
pine. King had started to get up from the hammock,
but Mrs. Hewitt stopped him.
"Now, don't you move out of there," she said as
she shook hands. "I ain't goin' to stay more than a
minute, only I felt I'd just like to come over and see
how you were gettin' along. I ought to apologise for
comin' so late in the afternoon at all, but one thing
happened an' then another, an' it didn't seem as if I'd
ever get away from the house. I came through the
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 77
woods, because it was shorter, but it was awful close
comin' along, and the mosquitoes are dreadful. I
wished I'd taken the road. You get a nice breeze
here, don't you ? I suppose it comes across from the
" It's a sea breeze to-day," said Fan. '
"Yes. We get it up our way a bit. More than
She settled herself in the chair and turned to King.
Fan sat down on the gras^ again, smoothing her skirt
over her crossed ankles. A decorous solemnity
settled upon the three of them.
"So you're really better, Mr. King. I'm so glad.
Not but what a shock like that seems to stay in the
system a long time. I guess you feel shaky yet,
" Oh, I'm all right, thanks," he smiled. " It wasn't
"It was Gkxi's mercy you wasn't killed outright,"
said Mrs. Hewitt decisively.
" I suppose it was luck ! But I'm pretty tough."
Her eyes roved over the slight figure in the
hammock in a way that seemed to confirm >her
own opinions on the subject.
"You don't show it much," she remarked grimly.
" I guess you gave the folks up here a turn, anyway.
It's a wonder you don't look worse than you do."
78 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
" Miss Tasker has succeeded in preserving me a
little while to this worthy planet," King murmured.
Fan's teeth closed mutinously on the grass-stem
she was biting.
"I hear she's been a first class nurse," said Mrs.
Hewitt genially. "Doctor Connolly will have to be
givin' you a certificate for first aid, Fan."
"It might take the form of a medal," said King,
glancing at her, "inscribed for fortitude under de-
Mrs. Hewitt laughed.
" Well, I always say myself nursin's a knack," she
said. "Some folks has it an' some hasn't. But wasn't
it a dreadful storm though ? I guess it was the worst
we've had this year. Dave Allan's house over by the
inlet was struck. They were in bed, an' it tore all
the lead gutter off one side of the roof. He was struck
summer before last, an' he will stick to it yet his
lightning-rods ain't wrong. I know I have ours
seen to every year. It cost him nine dollars to get
his gutter repaired. I always think folks that are
careless deserve to have things happen to them."
"Do you remember," said Fan conversationally,
" the time the Methodist church was struck ? The
old rods were taken down to be cleaned, and they
quarrelled over who should put them up again. The
committee thought the congregation ought to pay,
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 79
and the congregation thought the committee ought
"Come to think of it,*' mused King, "it's a
quaint notion putting lightning-rods on a church at
all. Don't you think so?"
" I don't know," said Mrs. Hewitt, who was a
member of the church in question. "It seems to
me if you protect your own house you ought to
protect the Lord's house too."
The young man turned whimsical eyes upon her.
"But do you think that's the point?"
"Mr. King is greatly concerned about the faith-
lessness of the present generation," said Fan, start-
ing on a fresh piece of grass. "He considers light-
ning-rods a reflection upon providence."
"I don't know but what he's right," Mrs. Hew-
itt agreed. " Then, again, I've heard other people
say it's temptin' providence to leave 'em off. There's
religion an' there's commonsense, and I guess the Lord
likes both. He sends the thunderstorms along, but
you can't expect Him to be watching every little
place all the while to see where they're going to hit.
There's lots of folks I know round here that's always
ready to blame things off on the Lord that ain't nothing
in the world but their own carelessness. There was
Deacon White, used to live down here along the
Oceanhouse road. He was alwstys talkin' about
8o THE PRICE OF YOUTH
trustin' in the Lord, an' he'd trust this an' he'd
trust that, an' let things run anyhow, just because
he was too shif'less to see after 'em; an' he left
his hay out one year, just for nothin' but because
he was too lazy to get it in when other folks did, an'
the Lord ^ot tired an' showed him what He thought
about it. The deacon was awful mad, too," she added
King sat up in the hammock. He was beginning
to like Mrs. Hewitt.
"Tell me some more about the deacon?" he de-
Mrs. Hewitt smiled.
"Well, I don't know that it matters, so long as he
ain't livin' here any more. But they said that when-
ever he had a grudge against anyone he used to get
it off on 'em in church. I never heard him, but
they said he was awful personal sometimes. An'
one time he an' a neighbour of his, a man named
Martin — not these Martins up here it wasn't, but an-
other Martin ; he's dead now ; died of sunstroke — ^had a
quarrel about a farm-waggon the deacon borrowed — he
was always borrowin' — ^an' he prayed at evenin' service
for those whose hearts were set only on the miserable
pomps an' vanities of this world, to the exclusion of
all heavenly grace. Everyone knew he meant Martin,
an' Martin knelt there lookin' madder'n madder. And
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 8i
when it came to his turn he prayed for those who,
bein' too dose, O Lord, as Thou knowest, to keep
pomps and vanities of their own, borrow from, their
neighbours, an' return them with the backboard out
and two bolts missing, which FlI thank him to pay
for. The deacon was hoppin', an' that was the
beginning of his goin' over to the Baptists. Some-
how the deacon never could keep friends with any-
one; he was always scrapping!"
Fan had not troubled herself to uphold the con-
versation much. She sat chewing grass-blades non-
chalantly. Nevertheless there was in her manner a
dignity that carried King back amusedly to his first
evening in the house. She rose at last, with an
air of suddenly remembering something, and went
indoors. When she had gone Mrs. Hewitt ap-
peared to settle herself with more comfort.
"And how do you like Matehocken, Mr. King?"
"Oh, delightful! I haven't seen very much of
the place yet. But I like all this."
The gesture of his hand took in the pine woods,
the sunshine, the rustling tree-shadows on the grass.
"The pines are nice," said Mrs. Hewitt reflec-
tively. "They say the smell of 'em's healthy too.
It always seems to me it must be close, livin' right in
82 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
among 'em. I like lots of air. An' the/re bad for mos-
quitoes too. I suppose you get a lot of 'em here?"
"A good many. They haven't struck me as very
"They're dreadful once they get in the house. An'
they work in everywhere, unless you have all the
screens sound. It don't seem as if you can keep 'em
out. Do they keep you awake at night any?"
"Oh, I don't think I've noticed them."
He did not mention that he had spent blasphemous
moments repairing the cotton gauze at his bedroom
window with stamp-paper.
"Well, maybe they ain't so bad this year as some
years. It's when the breeze comes off the bay it brings
'em worse; they're so thick sometimes back in the
woods you can't hardly stir for 'em." She paused
a moment, while her eyes swept the upper windows
of the house shrewdly. "Do you make out with
the cookin' all right?"
Remembering Fan's injunction about the chipped
beef, he braced himself warily.
Mrs. Hewitt looked relieved.
"That's good," she said. "I always feel kind of
responsible about recommendin' anyone an)rwhere,
in case it don't turn out what they thought. There was
some people came to me last summer, when I had my
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 83
house full, an' I sent 'em over to Stillwell's, on the
river, an' it did seem as if they couldn't find enough
fault with the way things was there. They said
they didn't give them nothing for supper but chipped
beef night after night. Chipped beef is handy, an' I
suppose when Mrs. Stillwell ran out of everything
she'd give *em that, but I know they said they got so
sick they hated the very name of it."
"I don't wonder," said King.
"Yes. An' it used to make me feel as if I'd had the
doin* of it. But I think when folks go away for
the summer they do want to have their meals re-
"It makes such a difference. Still, when you go
away, you can't have things just the same as you
would at a city hotel. I guess you've found that
"If you could," said King evasively. "There
wouldn't be any sense in going away, would there?"
She glanced at him mistrustfully, but he was
staring up through the pine-boughs at the sky.
"I suppose you'll be stayin' on for a while, so long as
you're comfortable?" she said after a pause.
"I expect so."
"Lots of folks like it better here than down at the
beach; it is so much quieter. I've often wondered
84 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
someone don't start a real nice hotel out this end
of the town. It ought to pay. I guess Tasker
could do a lot more with this place, if he liked. But
he's queer. . . . How do you get on with him ?"
"Oh, I like him," said King. "What Fve seen of
him. He's a charming man to talk to."
"He can be good company, when he likes. He's out
a lot of the time, isn't he ?"
"He seems pretty busy always."
They relapsed into talk of Matehocken and its sum-
mer attractions, and after a little while Mrs. Hewitt
rose to go, reluctantly, as one whose mission was only
"Well, I'm glad you're better," she said again as she
shook hands. "And I'm glad you like the place all
right I've felt I'd like to know, seein' I sent you
here. Just thinkin' of it reminds me. I saw Mrs.
Cole, whose sister has the 'Granville,' down by the
beach, an' they're only chargin' six dollars for board
there. It's a real nice house."
King, lounging back in the hammock again, watched
her retreating figure through quizzical half-closed
eyes. Phemy advanced to him across the lawn,
clad in the blue muslin of the thunderstorm, freshly
starched and ironed. The breeze teased the ruffles
of it, and loosened the smooth yellow hair across
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 85
her forehead. She tucked a stray lock behind her
ear, screwing her eyes to meet the sun that struck
level between the pine-trunks.
"Do you know," said King, transferring his gaze
to her, "that wrinkles have distressing effects upon the
most charming countenance?"
Phemy giggled, but she unscrewed her face never-
theless. She suspected King of an abiding unserious-
ness. Whenever he looked at her there stirred in her
mind uneasily the recollection that she had once told
Fan he was ugly. She assumed now the pert in-
difference to which she always clung as a ground
"Fan sent to tell you supper'd been ready twenty
minutes, an' she'd like to know whether you're com-
ing in or not?"
He extricated himself meekly from the hammock
and went indoors. There was a pervasive smell
of coffee and fried ham. Fan stood at the dining-
room window eating an apple.
"I wondered whether you were coming in," she
Supper was laid. The table appointments pre-
sented somewhat more scheme than on the night
of his arrival; the same china bowl stood in the
86 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
middle, filled with sweetpeas. King fetched a chair
with his free hand and sat down.
"Your social methods," he said, "strike me as im-
"What do you mean?"
"Why did you go off like that and leave that
excellent lady and myself to our own devices?"
Fan bit into her apple viciously. "She didn't
come to see me. She came to find out how much
we were doing you over board."
"I didn't betray you."
She came over to the table and began to pour
"Did she ask you how much you paid?"
"You bet she knows then!" She filled their two
cups and sat staring at them moodily, her chin on
her hand. "Mrs. Goble probably told her." She
roused herself and handed his cup across, pushing
the sugar-bowl after it. "Did she ask if we gave
you ice-cream for dinner on Simdays?"
"Then Mrs. Goble told her that too," said Fan.
IN spite of Fan's predictions, Mrs. Hewitt was
the only caller who invaded the Cedars Hotel
on Eong's behalf. Nevertheless it was made ap-
parent, when he regained freedom to walk abroad,
that the entire village knew him intimately. People
of whose existence he was ignorant nodded in pass-
ing, or stopped on the road to ask how he was,
and whether he liked it up at Tasker's. It seemed
that his accident had raised him to a pinnacle of im-
portance in the local interest. The postmaster, on
the first morning when he called at the store for
his mail, greeted him genially, and 'lowed he was the
young man that give 'em such an eternal scare up here
a while back. He also inquired, rummaging slowly
through the pigeon-holes behind the counter, wheth-
er it was true that Tasker was advertising in the
city papers for a bar-tender, and that he won forty
dollars from that drummer chap over poker, and
then turned him out because he couldn't pay his
board. The postmaster, being handicapped by a
88 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
natural straightforwardness, was easier to deal with
than a certain old lady who lived half-way between
the hotel and the store, who, out pottering about
her front garden one afternoon in a brown sun-bonnet,
involved King guilelessly in conversation across the
fence. She began with solicitude for his bandaged
arm, and proceeding by delicate steps, managed to en-
tangle him in a web of cross-examination as to
his position at Tasker's and the domestic economy
of the hotel. She seemed to be under the delusion
that he was working for his board. King held his
ground as long as he could, but had to escape her
curiosity at last by precipitate flight. He wondered
afterwards why she didn't ask him about his bank
account. His amusement would have been less serene
had he known that Mrs. Goble had already gauged
his finances by the extent of his laundry, and pub-
lished her conclusions for the edification of the
He learned thereafter to meet all inquiries with
a wary cordiality which earned for him the reputation
of being "dreadful stand-offish." He gathered that
they were inspired less by interest in himself than
by the desire to penetrate, through the medium of the
stranger within the gates, the private workings of the
Tasker household. He had discovered already that
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 89
between Tasker's and the rest of the village there
existed a distinct social gulf, almost an antagonism.
On which side it originated he was unable to make
out, but he imagined that Tasker possessed many
and devious ways of making himself disliked. Fan
held small intercourse with her neighbours, and was
certainly at no pains to ingratiate herself with them.
All the same she appeared to have their histories
at her finger-tips. To King she ridiculed their
failings, their idiosyncrasies, their religion; ran them
down on every occasion with a flippant, ruthless
intolerance which was the only thing he disliked in
He thought it was a pity that, living amongst
these people all the year round, she should not at
least make the best of them. They seemed to him,
on such acquaintance as he had with them, simple
kindly folk enough, with no great faults save such
as arose naturally from their too narrow, monoto-
nous existence. They were respectable common-
place people, living respectable commonplace lives,
with small meannesses fostered by environment;
but that was no reason why, in looking at them,
one should see only the meanness, the narrowness.
Fan, with the hard intolerance of youth, saw noth-
ing else, and her bitterness seemed to him un-
natural and disproportionate.
90 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
Mrs. Hewitt appeared to have taken from the first
an interest in King which she did not relinquish as
time went on. She never came to the hotel again, but
several times, riding down to the village on his
wheel, he stopped at her house for a few minutes'
chat. He liked her better than anyone else about.
She was always brisk and cheery and smiling, never
too busy, amid the cares of a houseful of board-
ers, to have a welcome for him at whatever time he
turned up. It was a standing joke between the two*
that she still owed him the cup of coffee he didn't
have on his first evening in Matehocken, and she
would never allow that many subsequent payments
had levelled the debt.
He wondered why Fan didn't get on with her
better. The dislike, if it amounted to that, was
wholly on the girl's side. Mrs. Hewitt never spoke
of her in other than the kindliest terms. He even
fancied, sometimes, that she was a little hurt at
Fan's coolness and would have been glad, had she
shown less marked independence, to have been a
good friend to her. But Fan inherited many of
her father's characteristics. She could make her-
self, when she chose, distinctly unapproachable. If
she didn't care for people she took no trouble to
be friendly to them. It was scarcely the way to
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 91
make the best of a position which struck King at
times as being rather lonely for a girl of her age and
nature. She seemed to him to miss voluntarily a great
deal that might have gone to make her life pleasanter,
and in the case of Mrs. Hewitt particularly he thought
that she carried her aloofness too far.
The July days passed for King, on the whole, very
pleasantly. He liked the place, partly because its in-
conveniences allowed him certain freedoms which he
might not have foimd in other houses. He was not a
man to adapt himself readily to either the restrictions
or the advantages of the average shoreside boarding-
house. He disliked strangers at any time, and one of
the effects of his illness had been to quicken in
him a nervous diffidence that outsiders took some-
times for misanthropy. His courtesy towards his
fellow-creatures never extended to permitting him-
self to be bored by them. Here there was no oc-
casion to sit up in his bedroom half the day to
avoid the kind of people to whom he would be un-
failingly charming if he met them on the stairs.
He felt himself less a boarder than a guest in a
household whose irregularities never troubled him.
Of Tasker he saw very little. He was a tall,
rather handsome man of some fifty years, loosely built,
with blue inscrutable eyes, grizzled hair always more or
92 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
less disorderly, and a yellow moustache. In appearance,
with his fine carelessness of dress, trousers tucked
into high boots, a soft felt hat, and a shirt that
set easily over powerful shoulders, he suggested
strongly the typical bar-tender of some remote
Western town. He brought to mind Bret Harte and
his tales of mining days. To King's thinking he
only wanted a revolver in his belt to make him ar-
tistically perfect. He was genial, but never very
talkative; unvaryingly courteous at such times as
King met him, with a refined dignity of bearing
that was in odd contrast to his roughness of ap-
pearance. He had a Jersey dryness of hiunour,
and not a little of Jersey closeness over business
transactions. King gathered that he could be, when
his occasional ill-humour had sway, a rather dec-
orative blackguard. He accepted in any case Mrs.
Hewitt's opinion that Tasker was not the sort of man
one would care to quarrel with.
He spent his evenings always in the bar, which was
a gathering place for local gossip, and for the
discussion of politics. Occasionally King, sitting
out on the side porch in the evening, would hear
his voice raised high in steady argument. The
sharp clang of the cash-register sounded at fre-
quent intervals, and there were bursts of laughter
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 93
that had a sharp and not always kindly edge. Some-
times the gramophone was set going, in shrill cheerful
vibration of some comic song, or a selection of popular
music. There was seldom any sound of quarrelling;
he concluded that Tasker ruled the saloon, on occasion,
with a heavy hand.
That he drank, and drank heavily, there was no
doubt, but King never saw him drunk about the house.
He seemed to succeed in keeping one side of his
character for his customers and another for his
household. Mrs. Goble, on the days when she came
to work, displayed toward him the deference she
would have shown to the devil in earthly guise.
Her hymn-tunes wavered into a cowed aggressive
silence when Tasker walked across the entry.
The house appeared to a great extent to "run
itself," as Mrs. Hewitt had said. There were meals
at approximately regular times. Sometimes Tasker
came in to them, more often the table was set only
for two. Phemy came over and helped with the
housework every day. She was more competent
than Fan, but the combined competence of the house-
hold reached no great level. It was always more
or less of a problem to King how anything got
done at all. When Mrs. Goble came, once a week,
the place reeked virtuously of wet boards and soap-
94 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
suds, and chloride of lime, and he was continually
falling over pails left on the staircase. Mrs. Goble
cleaned with a godly ardour, her sleeves rolled up
and her brown skinny hands wielding scrubbing-brush
and duster as though she were effacing stains from
her neighbours' souls. She cooked and served the
dinner on these days, and the steak came in with
a strong flavour of scouring-soap.
King had experience, as time went on, of what
Mrs. Hewitt had in mind when she said that Fan
was queer. Ordinarily she would be a good com-
panion enough; their friendship was based upon
mutual dislikes and S3mipathies which had flashed
to light in the first hour of their acquaintance, and
a tacit avoidance of intimacy. Her companionship
was to him almost like the companionship of
another man. The sat out on the porch in the
evening and talked, while King smoked to keep the
mosquitoes off. Sometimes Tasker joined them,
lounging against the porch-rail in the intervals of
business. In the afternoons they went for walks,
in the pine woods or down the shore to the river-bank,
half a mile from the house. Tasker kept two horses, a
veteran named Duke, with a contemptuous Roman nose
and many fixed prejudices, and a smart bay mare which
he drove himself. Often in the cool of the evening they
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 95
took Duke and the buckboard and drove down to the
beach, or along one or other of the country roads.
In other moods she would leave him brusquely to
his own resources. There were days when he scarcely
saw her. She would sit through meal-times in a
bored silence, scarcely speaking except to ask whether
he was ready for more coffee; absent herself from
the house for hours at a stretch, and his only in-
timation of her return would be the distant wandering
glimmer of her white blouse through the dusk of the
pines. She would come home tired from long solitary
walks, her hair braided down her back — ^always a sign
of unsociability — say good night to him yawningly at
eight o'clock, and go up to bed.
Sometimes she suffered from excesses of domestic
virtue. For three days at a stretch meals would be
punctual to the minute; entry and dining-room
swept twice a day, and everything reduced to com-
fortless tidiness. She went about, duster in hand,
setting chairs straight and picking up papers; tidied
the mantelshelf, usually a chaos; threw out all
the flowers in the vases and gathered fresh ones.
On one of these days King came upon her in the
parlour, a little square room opening from the side
entry, seldom used, where chintz-covered chairs resided >
in a religious twilight. She had Opened all the win*
96 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
dows and the sunshine came in with pleasant home-like
effect upon the rag carpet, the shabby cottage piano
standing back against the wall, polished angles of fur-
niture, and some old china, delicate pink-and-gold, set
on the inevitable "whatnot" of a country parlour. Over
the fireplace hung an impressionist oil-sketch of the
river, in a dull gold frame. The vivid note of it caught
King's eye as he paused in the doorway.
"Who did that?" he said.
Fan straightened her shoulders, leaning on the car-
"An artist who was down here last year. Do you
like it?" she asked after a moment.
"No," he said. "It's wonderfully clever. I don't
like the man's attitude."
"Well, to himself, chiefly. To the universe, if you
like. It's the same thing." He sat down on an arm
of one of the chairs. "Painting's such a betrayer. A
man can write a book — a dozen if he likes — and say
nothing about himself at all. But when he paints a
picture it's all got to come out ; he can't help it. The
man that did that wasn't perfectly honest with
Fan's mouth straightened.
"He happened to be rather more honest than most
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 97
"Most people don't count. We were speaking of
artists. The man who could do that could do a good
deal better and he knew it. There was something he
missed — something he hadn't got. I should say he
was rather . . . one-sided. That picture seems
to me the determination to justify an artificial at-
Fan smiled resentfully.
"Conservatives usually say that of impressionism."
"Not of true impressionism."
"Do you know you're feeling ugly this morning?"
"I'm sorry. It's the effect of all this tidiness."
He glanced round him in a deprecating way. "Too
much sweeping and garnishing is bad for the soul."
She picked up some music folios and put them back
on the piano.
"Why don't you take a book and sit out in the
"Is that a panacea for moral ugliness?" He rose
and felt through his pockets. "If you'll tell me
where I put my pipe to when you turned the room
upside down after breakfast I'll try it."
"It's on the mantelshelf," said Fan.
He found it behind the clock, and wandered out,
but got no further than the porch. The air was still
and sultry, filled with the shrill monotonous rasping
98 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
of insects, that rose and fell in orchestral rh3^ni from
the weeds in the sun-steeped clearing. He found
a shady comer and sat down with his back against
the wall of the house. A wasp was building a mud
nest on one of the porch beams. While he smoked,
King watched it journeying backward and for-
ward between the beam and the outside summer
world, its poised wings glistening in the sunlight,
as anxiously responsible as a master-mason over
the foundation of a cathedral.
Presently a black-covered waggon, drawn by a
decrepit roan horse, came up the road and turned
in at the side of the house. The reins were hung
to a hook over the driving-seat, and the horse ap-
parently guided itself, picking a reflective way across
the sand, the waggon jolting behind. The harness
was old, and seemed to hold together by some
law of nature, assisted at critical points by bits of
rope. On the side of the waggon, painted in white
letters, was the inscription: "Jacob Rose. Pur-
veyor of Fish and Oysters. Families and Hotels
King had time to decipher this legend while the
roan horse was toiling slowly past the end of the
porch, appearing to maintain its progress through
sheer inertia until a voice from the interior of the
waggon yelled suddenly :
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 99
''Ho, dem ye!"
The horse stopped, and turning its head regarded
King for a moment attentively out of a bleared
uncanny eye, after which it relapsed into a coma-
tose condition. There was some fumbling inside
the waggon, and a man climbed out over the wheel.
He wore indescribably ancient trousers and a fisher-
man's blue jersey, and had small gold rings in his ears.
He had the straight erect build of a man of forty.
His face, when he turned, was infinitely old,
seamed and wrinkled and ta,nned to a deep ma-
hogany, but his blue eyes seemed to hold a malig-
nant secret of perpetual youth, and his hair and
beard were thick and curly and of a bright un-
grizzled chestnut. He reached the ground unhurriedly,
and nodded to King with a sharp jerk of the head.
"Momin*. Mis' Tasker wantin* any fish to-day?"
King removed the pipe from his mouth, and re-
turned his greeting.
"Fm afraid I couldn't say."
"You kin tell 'er I got some right nice blue-fish !"
"Don't you think," King suggested, eyeing him in-
curiously, "that it would be as well if you went
roimd and told her yourself?"
"Boarder, ain't ye?" said Jacob, in a commen-
tary tone. He went round to the end of the waggon,
% r M" I
100 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
where water, dripping between the backboards, made
a little pool in the sand.
"Something of that nature."
"I was thinkin' I'd seed you before."
"Oh, most probably," said King. "I frequent the
public squares when the municipal band plays. Is your
horse addicted to the morphia habit?" he asked,
replacing his pipe between his teeth as he studied
the uncanny beast with interest.
Jakey, fumbling in the back of the waggon, pre-
sented to view a stolid square of blue jersey.
"Perhaps he is merely in the ecstatic mood. He
has wrought himself up by prayer and meditation.
Here comes Miss Tasker now," King added, turning
Fan appeared from the sidedoor. "Good morning,
Jakey," she said.
Jacob acknowledged her presence with a grunt,
and she went round to the back of the waggon, whence
there ensued a long colloquy, accompanied by jingling
of scales. Jakey was of a deliberate nature, and it
seemed to cost him a personal wrench to part with
any of his fish at all. He handled them as if they
were bars of gold. The prehistoric animal between
the shafts unfastened one eye again, and King
THE PRICE OF YOUTH loi
was reminded unpleasantly of the horse in the poem
of Childe Rolande. Ancient sins seemed to buzz like
flies about this steed's head also.
It was twenty minutes before Jakey finally climbed
back into the waggon, turned it round with melancholy
screeching of the wheels, and set oflf up the road
again. King watched the departing vehicle breath-
lessly. He was hoping to see it come to* pieces
before it reached the turn by Mrs. Martin's cot-
tage. But it trundled intact out of sight, and he
turned to see Fan standing on the porch beside him.
"It's perfectly secure," she said. "You needn't
"How old do you think Jakey is?"
"Fifty?" he hazarded.
"Seventy-nine. But he's been as old as that ever
since one can remember. He's a survival from the
days of the patriarchs. If you came back a hun-
dred and fifty years from now you'd find Jakey going
the same rounds, in the same patched jersey, telling the
same lies. He's watched everyone in the place grow up
and there isn't a thing about them he doesn't know.
He's got 'em all down fine. If the least little
thing happens in the village Jakey knows it, if
he was twenty miles off when it happened. He's the
102 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
worst old scandalmonger in the county, and he*s
got everyone so scared of him they dam't turn
round. I believe a hundred years ago they'd have
offered propitiatory sacrifices to him. I'm not sure
some of them don't now. You should hear Mrs.
Goble about Jakey! She swears he's got the evil-
"I thought his horse had," said King. "The gaze
of that venerable beast made my blood run cold."
"The horse is nearly as old as Jakey. They say he's
hypnotised it, and that's why it holds together so
long. I guess if he was to take the spell off you'd hear
all its bones drop apart! The legends of Jakey
would fill a book. He bought that horse off Joe
Meakins for twelve dollars, because Joe had given
it up, and that's seventeen years ago. Dad can tell
you. We had a coloured man working here once,
and he always carried a rabbit's foot against Jakey."
She moved away towards the entry door, and
"Do you believe in the evil-eye ?"
Fan paused with her hand on the screen-door.
"I do when it's Jakey's," she said.
"npHEY'RE out drivin' nearly every evenin',"
X said Mrs. Powell. "I see 'em go past the
house here. Th* other evenin' they had that brown
horse of Tasker's out, an' it just kited past. I
wonder the old man let's her take it out. Fan's
an awul reckless driver. He refused ninety dol-
lars for it this spring, I heard, and she drives it
round as if it was a cart-horse."
"Jim Wright says he'd rather trust Fan with a
horse than anyone in the village."
"Jim likes her because Fan'll go there an' sit
round in the forge talkin' to him. She's got all
around Jim. He mended the buggy-tree for her
that time she broke it comin' down Seven Hill and
never let on a word. An' to see her drive past
now with her chin in the air you'd think she'd never
spoke to a blacksmith in her life !"
Mrs. Powell and her sister sat opposite to each
other on the back porch of Mrs. Powell's house
shelling beans. Their knees nearly touched, and
104 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
the big dish-pan, filled with beans, was balanced
across them. Each had her apron piled high with
the empty pods. Mrs. Powell kept pressing them
down as she talked. She worked quicker than her
sister, and her heap of pods was nearly twice as
The sister, Mrs. Lyons, was a thin delicate woman,
who looked older than her age, of a faded prettiness
that was in direct contrast to Mrs. Powell's solidity.
She was slightly deaf, and spoke hesitatingly in
consequence ; her voice had a clear questioning sweet-
ness, not unlike a child's. Because she accepted mis-
fortune without grumbling, looked out on her some-
what hard life with blue, pathetically hopeful eyes,
she had acquired in the village a reputation for
"settin' down under things." Her husband had been
ill for over a year. He worked on a baggage-train
that ran between Matehocken and New York, and
had injured himself internally by lifting heavy weights.
When Mrs. Powell had her house full of boarders
in the summer her sister used to go over and
help her with the work. Mrs. Powell believed
herself very good to Louisa. She was; but it was
in a heavy-handed, domineering way that lessened
the value of the kindness.
Mrs. Lyons was the only woman in the village
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 105
that Fan really liked. As a child she had run in
and out of Mrs. Lyons* house, which stood midway be-
tween her own home and the schoolhouse, and those
visits were always associated with cookies and tumblers
of home-made root beer. Mrs. Lyons had taken her
part in childish escapades. When Fan, six years old
and chafing at the injustice of needlework on a sum^
mer afternoon, had marched off with a view of
pursuing the simple life in the pine woods, it was
Tom Lyons who had found and brought her home,
scratched and sleepy, and dyed with the stain of
huckleberries. She had bitten Lyons when he picked
her up; years after he would embarrass her by dis-
playing an old scar on his wrist, which he declared to
be the abiding imprint of Fan's teeth. "J^st hung on
like a little dawg," he used to say.
Later, the attitude of friendship was reversed.
Mrs. Lyons, once the prettiest bride in Matehocken,
faded by slow degrees of ill-health into the quiet
resigned woman who had lost the respect of the
village through a disinclination to stand up against
circumstance. Her deafness, too, shut her out from
contact with all but her nearest neighbours. Fan, shot
up into a tall, healthy young hoyden, used to swoop
down upon the frail little woman and take her out by
force for drives. She came over to see her, brought
io6 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
her books and magazines, always in a more or less
haphazard way; but the girl's chance visits, her
outdoor health and reckless chatter, used to brighten
the over-quiet house as nothing else did. With
her, Fan was never at the usual pains to show her
worst side. This quiet, gentle woman, made sensi-
tive too perhaps by her affliction, came nearer
to understanding her than anyone in the village.
Possibly she saw in Fan's intolerances some shadow
of her own youth, recognised in the recklessness
which drove the girl into escapades that the village
denounced as crazy merely the reaction of imchecked
youth against the narrow monotony of her surround-
ings. She viewed it in a less practical light than
Mrs. Hewitt, trusting everything to a vague con-
viction that when Fan married she would "settle
down." She had cherished that hope, a kindly
interest at the back of her mind, during the three
years that had elapsed since Fan returned, to all
intents a grown-up young woman, from the school
at Orange to which Tasker had sent her at her
mother's death. It rose, unadmitted, to fresh defi-
nition each time that she watched Fan drive past in
the buckboard with the red-haired young man from
the city. Her thoughts ran to romance as naturally
as a plant to flower; love had brought enough of good
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 107
into own life for her to wish it whole-heartedly
to others. He was not the looking man she would have
chosen for Fan, but she admitted Fan's right to have
her own ideas.
As she shelled the beans now, slowly, into the
dish-pan that rested half on her knees, half on her
sister's, she said —
"I saw Fan down in the drug-store with him yes-
terday, when I was gettin' Tom's medicine made
up. They came in for soda-water. I thought Fan
was lookin' real pretty. She had her hair put up,
with a bow, like all the girls are wearin' it now."
"Yes. I notice she has."
Mrs. Powell's tone all but implied a sinister mo-
tive in the alteration of Fan's hair. It was wasted
upon her sister.
"I like to see a young girl take trouble about the
way she looks. It don't seem natural not to. Fan
usen't to care much what she wore, but I'm glad
she's growin' out of it. She looks real nice when
she takes trouble to."
"I thought she'd been fixin' up considerable, each
time I've seen her lately."
It was in Mrs. Lyons' mind to say, "I wish
that fellow would take to Fan." But something in
ber sister's face as she sat opposite, grimly hulling
io8 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
beans with strong, quick fingers, made her feel that
the words would be a g^ossness. Somehow her sister
often had that effect upon her; it was the conscious-
ness of a curious gulf in their sympathies. Suffer-
ing had given Mrs. Lyons a certain refinement,
almost a spirituality, acting upon her mind as it
acted upon her body. She had always been rather
different to Mrs. Powell, and of late years the differ-
ence had become so marked that it was in effect a
Two days later Fan herself came round to Mrs.
Lyons' house. It was over three weeks since she had
last called. Mrs. Lyons was in the kitchen making
biscuit for supper. Fan caught sight of her across
the front entry and came through. She had a bunch
of magnolia buds in her hand.
"I brought you these over," she said. "We got
a lot over the other side of the river by Joe Meakins'.
They'll come out in water."
She sat down on one of the wooden chairs for a
while and talked, watching Mrs. Lyons as she stood
at the table, cutting out the dough into neat circular
bites with an empty baking-powder can. The
kitchen was on a line with the front door, and a
pleasant summer draught came through the rocrni,
which was warm from the heat of the stove.
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 109
Mrs. Lyons' gaze rested presently on the white
lawn shirt-waist Fan was wearing.
"That's a real pretty waist you've got on, Fan," she
said in her gentle questioning voice. "It's new, ain't
it ? I like all those little fine tucks."
Fan's hand moved instinctively to the front of the
"Do you like it? I got the stuff at Reinbach's,
twelve and a half cents. I made it all in two even-
Mrs. Lyons smiled and nodded. She seldom caught
all that anyone said.
"I should think those tucks were a lot of work
"They didn't take so long. I did them on the
machine." After a moment, she added apologetically :
"Most of my last year's waists are worn out any-
It was not until the girl rose to go and Mrs. Lyons
was shutting the oven door upon the last tray of
biscuit, that she said:
"How do you make out with the new boarder.
Fan paused, leaning against the door-frame.
"We get along all right, I guess."
"It's nice for you to have some company in the
no THE PRICE OF YOUTH
house," said Mrs. Lyons. "So long as it's someone
A little tinge of colour ran under Fan's skin, deep-
ening the tan.
"Oh, we don't quarrel," she said. "I guess he goes
his way, most of the time, and we go ours. . . . Mr.
King is quite an exemplary boarder," she added,
smiling. "He eats what is guv him and makes no
Mrs. Lyons nodded again, in her conversational
way that was not unlike that of some sober flower
nodding in the breeze.
"Well, I'm glad," she said, "It's someone for you
to talk to. I think it's real dull not to have new faces
once in a while."
Mrs. Lyons' was the second house from the little
general store and post ofiice, going to Matehocken.
It was threequarters of a mile by road from the
Cedars Hotel, but there was a back way through the
pine woods, cutting off a corner of unfenced pasture
and some building lots where new summer cottages
were being put up, little wide-porched bungalows built
fancifully of shingled pine.
Fan went out through the side yard, bright with
phlox and petunias, and the bed of day-lilies that
overflowed between the whitewashed pickets of the
THE PRICE OF YOUTH ill
fence, and struck across diagonally to the left. The
pasture land over which she walked was weed-grown
and sandy, covered with blackberry brambles that
made tangled snares for the foot. Here and there
were conical shoots of pine and cedar, the last
dwindling descendants of the forest that still con-
tended jealously year by year its ancient foothold.
The tiny cedars, sturdy, defiant, were like truant
Christmas-trees strewn about. Beach-plum bushes
grew in low clumps, their twisted branches, where the
fruit was turning already to bluish-red, bearded with
grey ragged moss. A cow, tethered to a stake, grazed
patiently, moving slowly forward with dragging feet
among the weeds and brambles. Everywhere hawk-
weed flamed, raw gold in the afternoon sunlight, and
the air was alive with the shrilling of crickets.
Fan reached the edge of the woods and sat down
under an outpost pine to rest. A warm haze basked
over the pasture she had crossed, and the shingles on
the new cottages seemed to dance and twinkle. Men
were at work on the last one, and the leisured sound
of hammers came restfully on the summer air. The
tall ailanthus trees in the road before Mrs. Lyons'
house barely stirred. It was so still that she could
hear the clank of coupling chains where they were
shunting cars at the depot. Later, an engine shrieked.
112 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
and a faint grey wisp of smoke rose in the distance.
It was the five-twenty from Philadelphia.
She wondered whether anyone had called for the
mail, and whether Phemy would think to have the
egg-plant for supper sliced by the time she got back.
She had half promised Phemy to go bathing this
afternoon, but it would be too late now, and she was
comfortable where she was. Once or twice lately
Fan's conscience had reproached her with neglecting
Phemy. At one time they had been very much
together, and the reaction had come, since King's
establishment in the house, as a gradual drifting
apart that was quite as much upon Phemy's side
as her own. The girl had seemed different the last
few weeks. She had taken to grumbling about the
house-work; had moods when she went through her
tasks in a half resentful, inattentive way; complained
about the heat and headaches; and yet was always
ready to slur the final dish-washing, in order that she
could hurry home to go out in the evenings. Her
chatter developed qualities of pertness; it was as if
a certain native commonness, hitherto in abeyance,
were b^inning to assert itself in her manners, her
speech. It seemed a pity to Fan. She had always
liked Phemy, and had done a good deal for her, one
way and another; had given her things, lent her odd
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 113
trinkets, tried as far as she could to help her to have
a good time. In some ways she had treated her more
like a sister than a servant.
From Phemy she fell to thinking of ICing, and the
first time she had met him, when he had appeared
like a travel-stained spirit in response to the ridiculous
nonsense of the summer afternoon. She had disliked
him then, but through her dislike, her condemnation
of his artificiality, had struggled the half liking that
was to develop, by swift degrees, into almost the
first real friendship of her life. He was diflFerent
from anyone she had known before; he seemed to
symbolise the shifting, kaleidoscopic modem world
from which she had always been shut out, the world
of art and thought and action, the life which was to
her the only life worth while. She liked him less
for himself than for what he represented. He cared
for the things she cared for, hated the things she
hated. They understood one another; she could
talk to him as she could never have talked to anyone
else. And under his egoism, his pose, she recognised
another deeper quality in him, a curious simplicity
underlying the whimsical, conflictive surface, which
she knew in chance glimpses to be his real self.
Defining it by her standards, she would have said
that he was a good man. Fan herself was irreligious
114 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
more through idlesness than actual conviction ; it was
with her the natural outlet of an intolerance for all
things fixed and traditional. Scoffing had come
by habit to be second nature. Sometimes, talking
to King, she had uncomfortable moments of wonder-
ing whether her own attitude were after all so fine.
He was sufficiently near her own age for his views
to appeal to her where those of an older man would
He had ridden down on his wheel this afternoon
to the village. The sight of a man on a bicycle now,
intermittently visible between the houses along the
road, reminded her that it must be getting on for
supper-time, and she rose, stretching herself, and set
off along the footpath, a mere smooth line trodden
on the pine-needles, which was the shortest cut
through the woods. The pines here were older than
many that grew about, tall grey-stemmed giants.
They had been thinned and the undergrowth cleared
from beneath them, giving breadth and freedom;
broad spaces of sunlight and freckled amber shadows.
Here and there was the flame of wild genista, and
clumps of cactus, with pale yellow blossoms like
great stars lying flat to the ground. A pine-lizard
ran along a branch near the path, with a quick
mouse-like scratching of tiny claws on the rough
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 115
bark, a fleeting glimpse of bright eyes and palpitat-
mg azure throat. Walking slowly, the pine-needles
frag^rant under her feet. Fan was conscious of one
of those rare moments of restfulness when the whole
world seems good. She felt a sense of harmony
with the summer world about her, a sheer gladness
at being alive.
The footpath brought her out on the main road, a
little above the white cottage where Phemy lived.
In the back garden she could see Mrs. Martin, an
expansive vision of pink cotton shirt-waist and white
apron, hanging out the week's wash. She moved
ponderously between the line and a basket on the
ground, her arms full of damp linen, and clothes-pegs
held in her mouth; the capacity of Mrs. Martin's
mouth for clothes-pegs had been one of the marvels
of Fan's childhood. The front yard of the cottage
and the porch itself were a blaze of yellow cannas,
scarlet cactus, and begonias blossoming in tin cans,
a riot of vivid conflicting colour. Mrs. Martin was
by way of taking a pride in her front garden.
By contrast, the grey front of the hotel, with its
ugly signboard and the gaunt white flagstaff planted
at one side, looked bare and unhomelike. Smoke
rose in a thin curl from the kitchen at the back of
the house. Someone was sitting out on the front
Ii6 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
porch; as Fan drew nearer, crossing the road, she
saw that it was a woman.
The visitor was fair and somewhat stout, with
regular features and face that might have been pretty,
but for an unwholesome leaden pallor in the skin,
and a certain cat-like cast of expression. It was the
look of a friendly and contented cat; her mouth
had a good-natured curve, and her blue eyes were
habitually narrowed. Behind their drowsy look there
lurked an alertness that might amount, tmder opposi-
tion, to craft. Her cloth skirt was well cut, so was
the white blouse above it, with its precise stock collar
and black satin tie. She wore a French sailor-hat of
blue straw, with a voliuninous white veil draped about
it in a slight exaggeration of the summer's fashion.
An expensive crocodile satchel hung from her waist-
belt, and she had a long gold watch-chain round her
neck, set with imitation stones.
Her way of sitting on the porch implied somehow
a possession, almost a statement of permanency.
She smiled as the girl came near, showing a gold
"Well, Fan," she cried cheerfully, "I was wonderin'
where you were! I thought I didn't hear an3^hing
of you round the house. My, but the place looked
dumb when I got here! You might have thought
everyone was dead or asleep!"
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 117
"Oh r said Fan.
She came slowly up the steps. Her young figure
seemed to straighten all at once into lines of weari-
"What train did you come on?"
"The four-fifty. Johnson brought me up. I thought
your fathered have been there to fetch me, but I guess
he couldn't have got my letter. I posted it last night,
She moved to one of the pillars and stood leaning
against it. Her gaze rested mechanically on the
jewelled chain that rose and fell with its owner's
"Well, you'd think you might give anyone a little
pleasanter welcome, while you're about it!" said the
visitor. Her voice took on a plaintive drawl, a note of
aggrievement that was wholly incongruous to her
bearing. She fixed her narrowed eyes on the girl's
face. "You always was real hospitable, Fan !"
A little hard smile came and went across Fan's
"I guess you am't dependent on my telling you
you're welcome," she said. "Do you want anything
to eat? We have supper at six; I should think it
must be nearly that now."
ii8 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
"I had something to eat before I left, since you're
so pressin*. You ain't changed much ! Where's your
"I don't know."
"Don't care, maybe. My, it's hot! Have you had
it hot like this all the time?"
She went on, regardless of the girl's indifference,
with comments upon the weather, the dust, her
journey down, the springs of Johnson's stage. She
was one of those women who seem obliged to talk,
independent of encouragement. Her voice flowed on
in an aimless stream of chatter, half self-satisfied,
half complaining. She took off her gloves, smooth-
ing them across her knee, showing white, ill-shaped
hands covered with cheap rings.
Presently she said: "Look. I guess that's him
comin' now, ain't it?"
Fan turned swift eyes to the road. Round the
bend by the Martin's cottage a man was approaching
on a bicycle, and she recognized King. He rode
easily, following the curves of the hard-beaten track
which ran at one side of the road, the sunlight flash-
ing on the spokes of the wheel. He dismounted when
he reached the side fence, leaning his bicycle against
it, and came up to the porch. A new magazine was
rammed into his pocket beside the afternoon's mail, a
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 119
newspaper and two letters tied about with string.
He pulled them out as he came forward.
"I got the mail," he began at once; "it was late
coming in. I've been sitting on a pickle-tub discuss-
ing the tariff with old man Dakins. When he gets on
to an argument I always begin to wonder whether Fm
going suddenly mad. He has *^
He broke off suddenly, catching sight of the
stranger. The visitor's eyes swept from his slim,
grey-clad figure to Fan, and the cat-like look flashed
up in her sleepy eyes. "I should think you might
introduce your friend. Fan," she purred.
Fan bit her lip, and her chin lifted imperceptibly.
She seemed to straighten herself as she stood. There
was a moment's pause, and then she said without
looking at him:
"Mr. King, let me introduce you to ... my aunt,
The young man bowed. Mrs. Sales, extended her
hand, beaming graciously from under the fashionable
"I'm pleased to make your acquamtance, Mr.
King!" she said.
BREAKFAST next morning was laid for two.
King glanced at the table as he sat down, and
"My aunt has breakfast in her room/'
It was rather a silent meal. Fan was in one of her
imsociable humours. She left him to serve himself,
and ate nothing: merely poured herself out a cup of
coffee, and sat staring at the tablecloth with moody,
inscrutable eyes. When he had nearly finished break-
fast she roused herself to say:
"Oh, I forgot. There's a cantaloupe in the ice-
chest. Will you have some?"
"Never mind, thanks." He took out his cigarette-
case and made as if to push it across to her, but she
shook her head.
"Yes, I will too," she said then, and reached out
her hand. She lit a cigarette, pulling out some of the
packed tobacco from one end, and smoked it half
through in silence, gazing out through the window
behind his head. Presently she lowered her eyes to
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 121
"Did you ever pray for a thing and get it?" she
"I was just wondering," said Fan. She leaned her
elbows on the table and blew little rings of smoke,
watching them curl upward.
"I never did. When I was quite little I had a habit
of praying for things, one time — just little things —
and I always found if I wasn't very careful about the
way I put it I either got something I didn't want or
I got it some way I didn't mean. I firmly believed
God would answer my prayers, but knew He'd do me
over it some way if He possibly could. It wasn't just
irreverence. ... Don't you ever have that feeling
when you pray about things — ^that you'll get them,
but you maybe get them in some way so they'll be
King looked at her reflectively.
"I'd hate to go through life," he said slowly,
"saddled with your conception of God as a Being
with every energy concentrated on the chance of
Fan knocked the cigarette-ash into her saucer.
"I guess one's conceptions get modified by ex-
perience. Maybe I've had bad luck. If I set my
mind on anything now, and wanted it tremendously,
122 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
I should know perfectly well that Vd either not get it
at all or else something mean would happen at the
last minute to spoil it."
"I know what you mean," said King. "We get
answered with reservations. But that's rather better
than not getting answered at all."
"I don't think it is. I don't call it an answer to
get something else you never meant and didn't want.
It's like giving a child cake and putting mustard
"What have you been praying about ?" he smiled.
"Nothing. Only I was just thinking about it. I'd
rather think there wasn't any God than think He
does mean things."
"That sentiment doesn't strike me as exactly orig-
Fan flushed a little.
"Maybe it doesn't. Maybe other people have
found out the same things I have."
"I find it's usually the most religious people who
have the least hesitation in telling the Lord what
they think of Him when things go wrong."
"Why shouldn't they?" she demanded.
"Precisely — if it's any satisfaction. Got some more
coffee? You know, I'm afraid of you when you get
into these dark theological moods 1"
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 123
Fan lifted the coffee-pot. "There's half a cup."
"Don't put salt in it!"
She opened her mouth to speak, then closed it
again. King's eyes glinted appreciatively.
"I know you am't," he said. "And a good thing
"I guess there's some things would be different!'*
said Fan grimly.
She stood and began to put the dishes together.
King found his cap in the entry, and looked in at the
dining-room door again.
"Are you coming down to the river this morning?"
"I guess not. I've got things to do in the house."
After he had gone, she cleared the table and carried
the cloth outside and shook it. While she was folding
it Mrs. Sales came in. She wore a starched lawn
wrapper, belted round the waist by a pink ribbon, and
trailing in untidy folds to her slippered feet. She
looked sleepy and dishevelled, but the dishevelment did
not extend to her hair, which was elaborately waved
and fastened with turquoise studded combs. It was of
an ashen fairness, deepening where its edges met her
skin. The powder on her face showed heavily in the
morning light, and there were bluish shadows under
her eyes. She paused in the doorway, yawning,
"Oh, you're through breakfast !" she said.
124 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
''We always have breakfast at half-past e^ht,**
said Fan« ''There's coffee out in the kitchen, and
I guess there's some mush left You'd better ask
She finished folding the doth, and put it away in
the sideboard drawer.
"I don't know that I want breakfast," Mrs. Sales
said. She sat down on a chair, putting up a hand
to her forehead. With the movement it gave to the
wrapper a faint scent of violets stirred on the air
"My head's bad this morning. I guess it was the
journey yesterday. I never could stand car rides in
"I should think coffee would do it good," said Faa
She fetched a duster and began to tidy the mantel-
shelf. Mrs. Sales watched her with friendly listless
eyes, yawning at intervals.
"I like the way you fix your hair. Fan," she said
presently. "I thought there was something different
about you yesterday. It's the way the N' York
girls wear it, only they do it higher in front. You
ain't got any rat in yours, have you? You don't
need it ; your hair's so thick."
"It's the same way I've always done it.'*
"It looks different," said Mrs. Sales. "You've got
it more stylish."
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 125
Fan's mouth tightened. She finished the mantel-
shelf and went to the sideboard. Then she said :
"Do you mind moving to another chair while I
dust that one?"
Mrs. Sales gathered her wrapper up fretfully.
"You're bein' awful tidy nowadays! Breakfast at
eight. . . • Runnin' the house on a chalk line, ain't
Fan made no answer, and she said after a moment :
"How long's this feller been boarding here?"
"Goin' to stay all summer?"
"I don't know. I suppose as long as it suits him."
"Guess he's got money, ain't he?"
Fan's duster paused for a second.
"I'm sure I couldn't tell you," she said distaiitly.
Mrs. Sales laughed, adjusting the wrapper folds
about her waist.
"All right ! You needn't get miffed I I was only
askin'. I guess I ain't goin' to interfere with you."
She paused a moment. "Seems to me we might be
friendly, so long as we're all livin' in the same house.
It looks kinder queer to outsiders, to be always
quarrelin' with your aunt, don't it? 'T isn't respect-
able. Relatives ought to live together peaceably."
Fan shot a single glance at her. It was a curious,
126 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
inscrutable look, and Mrs. Sales shifted under it with
an attempt at easiness. For the moment she seemed
ahnost to cringe. Then she laughed again.
"Oh, all right 1 You always was queer. Fan.
Only you might as well remember that when folks
put up bluffs they're liable to get 'em called some-
times. See? I ain't going to make trouble so long
as you don't My, but my head's bad !"
She scratched her wrist, where a mosquito bite
showed red on the soft white skin.
"I feel kind of done up this morning. I'd like a
punch. Is there any milk in the ice-chest?"
Fan's head was bent rigidly over the chair she was
"Guess you can find out!"
"Smart, ain't you? I reckon when that red-haired
chap sees you in the bosom of your family he won't
think so almighty much of your manners I'*
She waited a moment, then trailed off toward the
kitchen, where Phemy was at her dish-washing.
Fan could hear her talking to the girl; they seemed
on friendly terms already.
She finished dusting, working with tightened lips,
then crossed the entry to the parlour. The room
was close; it had been shut up since last night, and
it reeked heavily, as she opened the door, of spirits
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 127
and stale cigar-smoke and the bumed-out oil from
the lamp. She went to the windows and flung them
open. Two empty tumblers had left wet rings on
the tablecloth, which was marked with cigar-ash.
Small moths and gnats, which had fallen from the
chimney, clung to the metal base of the lamp,
saturated with the exuding oil. The sweetpeas on
the table were curled and shrivelled, killed by the
vitiated air. Fan took them up and threw them out
of the window. Then she carried the empty tum-
blers and the lamp out to the kitchen.
A yellow waggon stood waiting in the side-yard,
and Phemy, her sleeves rolled to the shoulder, was
giggling with the grocer's assistant, a young man in
a jaunty light-grey suit and russet shoes, with a
pencil stuck behind his ear. Unwashed saucepans
stood in the sink. A dish-pan on the table was half
full of greasy water, and near it some clips were
turned down to drain. Fan pushed them aside "to
make room for the lamp she was carrying. ^ ..
"Is there anything we want from Beecham's beside
the sugar?" Phemy asked. '
Fan looked in the dresser" cupboard.
"You might bring sortie crackers, Qarence," she
said. "And another box of sardines. And I guess
we're out of cocoa too."
128 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
The young man looked business-like over his note-
"Crackers and sardines and **
"Cocoa 1" Phemy repeated pertly. "My, but you're
There was a half-heard retort and more giggling.
Phemy returned to the kitchen and picked up a dish-
towel flung temporarily across a chair.
"Mrs. Sales took nearly half that milk for the
pudding," she said as she resumed the interrupted
drying of the cups. "I told her you wanted it, but
she took it just the same."
"Oh, it's all right," said Fan wearily. "We can
get some more if Jones comes round."
"He don't come around Fridays before two."
Phemy went on with her dishes, singing. She had
a clear girlish treble, that rose above the clinking of
the china —
"Honey, you stay in your own backyard,
Don' mind what dese other chillun's do.
What show you think they's a-gwine to give
A black little coon like you "
"Say, Mrs. Sales says the mosquitoes came in her
room awful last night," she broke off to say. "She
says so long as you're so particular about the house
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 129
rtowadays you might have the screens seen to.
There was a hole in hers."
"I guess it's up to her to mend it/' said Fan.
"She said she was goin' to take up one of the
screens out of the parlour to-day. She was grumbling
"Well, she won't then. Those screens don't fit
the upstairs windows anyway."
"I told her I guessed they wouldn't," said Phemy.
"But she said she was goin' to try."
Fan went back to the parlour and finished dusting.
Some books of King's were lying on the piano; they
were books he had brought down with him and lent
her to read — a new novel by a Western author and
a much-handled copy of Vailima Letters. She put
them away on the bookshelf. Mrs. Sales came in
while she was still tidying up. She had changed her
wrapper for the skirt and blouse she wore yesterday,
and the eflFect was to give her some increase of
dignity. She seemed to have forgotten their quarrel
of an hour ago; she had a vague mind like a feather
pillow, on which nothing left its impress for very
long. Her face now shone with a kind of negative
amiability, the goodnature of indolence.
She was carrying something in her hand, and she
put it down on the table.
130 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
"I've just been unpacking," she said. "Things do
get mussed in a trunk. Look, Fan, I brought this
down from the city for you. I thought maybe you'd
like it. They're wearin' a lot of 'em up there. I got
it at Wanamaker's."
It was a black velvet belt, with a dainty waist-
buckle of worked metal set with blue stones. Other
stones were dotted and studded at intervals on the
velvet. Fan barely looked at it, and her face flushed
"Thanks very much," she said. "But I have a
"Guess you can do with two, can't you?"
"I'm very much obliged to you, but I don't need
"Well, do as you like," said Mrs. Sales. Her good
humour seemed barely to suflFer under the rebuff.
She gathered the belt up again, almost disap-
pointedly. "You always was proud. Fan. I only
just thought you'd like it, but if you don't you dcMi't
Maybe it ain't good enough."
Fan's face was burning. There was nothing she
hated more than to hurt anyone's feelings, and though
she knew Mrs. Sales' feelings to be beyond injury, the
forced meanness of her own attitude over the trifle
stung her sharply. It was such a trivial thing as to
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 131
make her feel cheap. "It was awfully good of you,"
she said at last, stiffly. "It's real pretty . . . ."
"Oh, well, I guess it don't matter," said Mrs. Sales
That evening, when Fan was helping Phemy with
the supper things, her eyes fell on a glint of blue-and-
silver at the girl's waist.
"Where did you get the belt, Phemy?" she asked.
Phemy's fingers moved to the buckle guiltily.
"Mrs. Sales gave it to me."
"Oh," said Fan. She dried a glass and set in on
the dresser, her mouth straightened into an odd
smile of contempt. "I shouldn't think you'd want
to be taking presents from her."
Phemy still fingered the buckle, half shamefaced,
"She — ^made me take it. I had to. I couldn't get
out of it."
"No?" said Fan drily.
Phemy met her gaze, and the colour rose pink in
"I didn't see why I shouldn't take it anyway," she
said. "Just because I . . . didn't like her. I hadn't
got one. It's a real nice clasp," she added defiantly.
So far as King was concerned, the presence of
Fan's aunt made very little outward diflference
in the house. She never appeared at breakfast,
rarely at other meals. She went for drives with
Tasker in the spring buggy, and seemed to spend
most of the time when she was at home either up-
stairs in her room or in the parlour, reading novelettes
in the chintz-covered rocker. Sometimes, going to
and from his room, he encountered her on the stairs,
a vision in a loose wrapper which exhaled violet
perfume, and which she hitched about her, at such
meetings, in folds that disclosed no slight solidity of
build. Generally she carried a tumbler, in which ice
tinkled plaintively. With the exception of these
encounters, which had always an air of inadvertence,
her presence was made known to him chiefly by the
piano, on which she played long and laborious com-
positions of a sentimental nature, with treble varia-
tions and a solemn bass lagging always a fraction of
a bar behind. Occasionally she varied these by
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 133
ballads, sung to the same toilsome accompaniment,
in which widows set lamps in the window for only
sons who perished by shipwreck in the second verse,
or innocent little girls demanded of a sorrow-stricken
Daddy why Mother never came Home.
Fan rarely mentioned her aunt. When she had
occasion to speak of her, it was always as Mrs. Sales.
One effect of her visit was to throw Fan rather
more upon King's companionship than hitherto, in
the afternoons and evenings certainly. They had
free use of the black horse and the buckboard, and
they went for drives nearly every day. King gathered
that her interest was less in the excursions than in
getting away from the house. Usually their wander-
ings .were without aim; they took whatever road
they fancied, being glided not infrequently by the
prejudices of the old horse, who, having once done
his thirteen miles an hour, had settled down now to
the simpler ambitions and contentments of serene
middle-age. The country through which they passed
was monotonous, but its monotony came to appeal
to King, as thne went on, more strongly than variety.
He grew to like the long, pale stretches of road, shut
in by pine woods, the quiet homelike clearings here
and there; old orchards and unfenced rustling corn-
fields, and the little weather-beaten houses set down
134 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
close to the roadside, where potatoes and hollyhocks
grew side by side in the front garden,, Qiickens
overran the porch, on the roofs of which tomatoes,
set out to ripen, were sunning side by side with the
family bedclothes. Frequently there was a well that
still had the long, old-fashioned well-sweep, and the
invariable tin dipper turned upside down. There
was an air of peacefulness and content which might
have been shiftlessness, but was none the less pleasant
Sometimes they passed through cedar swamps,
where low plank bridges spanned the clear, wine-
coloured water. Twisted trees, festooned with grey
moss, took the forms of weird human monsters,
rising ghoul-like from among the pond-lilies. The
undergrowth was of a luminous rank emerald, vivid
and unnatural, and strange, poisonous flowers, like
the blossoms of a tropical forest, burned in its depths.
A deep, isolated stillness, diflFerent from the stillness
of the pine woods, uncomfortable in its intensity,
brooded over the swamp like a vapour, broken only
by the stealthy splash of a mud-turtle from one of
floating logs, and the beauty was the startling exotic
beauty of decay.
Returning from one of these drives in the evening,
they stopped at the drug-store to get soda-water.
It was the second week in August, and Matehocken
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 135
was In full swing of its holiday pageant. The dinner-
hour was just over. Hotels and cottages had poured
out upon the board sidewalks a gay, summer-clad
throng, young men and bareheaded girls in pretty
muslins, who sauntered up and down or stood in
chattering groups at street corners. There was a
buzz of young voices, and exchange of greetings
between one strolling group and another. Down
the single trolley-line in the main street big yellow
cars clanged at intervals, taking passengers to and
from the beach. Ice-cream saloons looked prosperous
and well-lighted, and outside the post office and the
principal hardware store were gathered the usual local
They tied the horse to the hitching-post outside
the drug-store and went in. Beyond the screen-door
was a pleasant scented atmosphere of drugs and
perfumes and toilet soaps. A young man in a linen
jacket came round from the prescription desk as Fan
"Good evening. Will ! I'll have orange phosphate."
He wiped off the marble and set down two tumblers
in their silver stands.
"Did you hear how Mrs. Coles' baby is?" Fan
He handed her the straws, smiling.
136 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
"I guess Mis' Coles won't give it the kerosine-can
to play with next time all right I"
"I guess not!"
"What happened?" asked King as the clerk with-
"The baby was fretful," Fan explained, "and they
thought the oil-can would be a real nice thing to
keep it quiet. So it was. Mrs. Coles," she axitinued,
taking a fresh straw from the bundle, "is notable for
always being surprised when things happen. She
has seven children, and how they have ever grown up
is one of the village mysteries."
She was in a nonsensical mood to-night; their
drive had been one continuous exchange of absurdi-:
ties from beginning to end. Sitting opposite to him
now under the electric light, her cheeks flushed pink
and her hair roughened by the wind, she was looking
prettier than he had ever seen her. King lifted his
glass, half smiling, half serious.
Her eyes mocked him across the edge of the
"To our better acquaintance' !'
"There are sinister possibilities in that toast," he
objected. "Don't you know that the penalty for rash
wishes is their realisation? You may yet live to dis-
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 137
cover that I am a politician, or a millionaire, or a
bishop on a rest-cure."
Fan set her glass down.
"Do your remember that first afternoon we met?
Phemy and I had an argument all the way home as to
what you were. I said you were a minor poet, and
she insisted that you had broken loose from the
asylum at Heronwood. We must go to Heronwood
"It is quite probable," said King. "I suppose
there is as good company there as anywhere. Who
will sign your certificate?"
"Guess it hasn't come to that yet !"
"Still, one never knows. Given the natural pre-
"We ought to go to Heronwood," she reverted.
"It's one of the prettiest drives round. I was just
thinking to-day there are lots of drives we haven't
been. We haven't been to Wright's mills."'
"Is that another haven for the deluded?"
"Non-official I" she laughed. "No, but it's an
awfully pretty drive. It's an old deserted mill, and
you get to it through the pine woods. People go
there for picnics sometimes. We might go one day
next week," she went on. "There'll be a moon then.
We'll have supper early and start right after. Maybe
138 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
father will let us take the mare. I know he's going
up to the city one night next week, so he won't be
using her then."
"Good!" said King. "Don't forget it."
"I won't forget."
She finished her soda and wandered off to study
the patent medicine displays and the glittering toilet
knick-knacks under glass cases, while he waited for
the clerk to come back. There was a magazine
counter at one end of the store, and she moved over to
it and stood reading down the titles of the summer
monthlies stacked in neat rows. While she was there
she heard the screen-door swit^ to, and a moment
later someone exclaimed: "Why, Mr. King, are you
down here I"
Fan half tumea her head. The voice, pretty and
clear-cut, belonged to a young girl who had just
come into the store. She had a freckled, childish face
and fair hair braided and tied with a wide black
ribbon. She was plainly dressed, but there was dis-
tinction in the cut of her white frock, the turn of her
head. There was a boy with her, a year or two older
than herself, and the two were sufficiently alike to be
known for brother and sister. They stood talking to
King near the soda-fountain. Scraps of their con-
versation reached her as she bent her head again over
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 139
"We've got the Hollywood Cottage, down by the
beach," the girl was saying. "You must come down.
I'd no idea you were here. Father will be awfully
pleased. Where are you staying?"
"The other end of the village — ^up the river."
"We were out sailing on the river yesterday,
weren't we, Jack? How funny if we'd seen you!
We're staying till October. Don't you ever come
down to the beach at all? The bathing's great.
Father's taught me to swim. Remember what a
time I had last year? I can go two yards by myself
"With one foot down !"
"I can, too! Mr. King, isn't he hateful? I wonder
where the clerk is ! You've been getting soda, haven't
you? This is the best place in the town; we always
"Dolly's had five sodas a day ever since "
"Jack, you be quiet! He doesn't like it because I
make him pay for them, and he's got twice as much
as I have. I'm always broke !"
"I remember you used to be," said King. "How
about Bryn Mawr?"
"I'm going this fall. Isn't it fine? Father prom-
ised I should if I worked hard this last year, and I
worked like — ^like anything, and now he's got to keep
to it. I got first in Euclid."
I40 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
"I thought you looked as if your constitution had
been hopelessly shattered I Been sitting up with a
wet towel round your head?"
"Oh, you needn't laugh I I never did such stunts
in my life. Father said I had a spasm of conscien-
tiousness. But I'm getting over it. Say, when are
you coming to see us? Come on back to the cottage
now, why can't you? We left them all sitting out on
the porch. I know father would want me to bring
you. Are you on your wheel? Jack and I are."
"I'm afraid I can't come to-night, thanks. I'm
with a friend."
"Both come. Oh, I think you might!"
Fan was engrossed in the pages of a magazine
when she heard King's voice at her shoulder, a
moment later, sa)ring: "Miss Tasker, I'd like you to
know Miss Dorothy Harding and her brother."
She turned slowly, and bowed. The girl Dolly put
out her hand with a bright friendly smile that Fan
liked instantly. She was not pretty, but there was a
childish attractiveness in her straight freckled nose
and grey eyes and the fair hair that was caught up,
school-girl fashion, from her forehead. They stood
and chatted for a few minutes — ^DoUy doing most of
the talking — about the town, the beach, the river.
She seemed to be good friends with King. He
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 141
teased her with the right of old acquaintanceship, his
gaze travelling whimsically from her face to Fan's.
When they finally parted on the sidewalk, she said :
"Now, remember you've got to come over. You'll
make him, won't you. Miss Tasker? And I want
you to come, too. Jack's got loads of friends here
already and I haven't one. Come over any time. If
you don't find us in the cottage you can hunt round
the beach. Do you swim? I wish you'd come down
to the beach sometime and we can go bathing to-
gether." She turned to King as she led her bicycle
to the kerb. "I'll tell father I found you and you
were disagreeable, and wouldn't come along with us,
and you see what he says!"
"Is that a threat?" King laughed.
Fan was waiting in the buckboard.
"That's a dear little girl," he said as he climbed in
beside her. "I'd no idea her people were down
here. Her father is Kenneth Harding, who edits the
Vagabond. He does a lot of critical work, too, in the
Philadelphia papers. He conceals the sword of
cleverness under one of the most genial exteriors I
know. I always think I'd like to see Harding's look
of blank amazement, if it ever came to a general
reckoning, at the faces of all the people he's ever
helped. There'd be a tremendous array of them.
142 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
Dolly takes after him a lot. Do you know his work
Fan turned out for an impending trolley.
"I don't think I do."
"He wrote a book called Torn Wings. Oh, you
must read it! It's fine. I can send for it; I've got
it at home. You'd like it awfully."
They passed the car terminus and turned aside
from the main street. Houses were set further apart,
divided by vacant building lots and dark spaces of
shadow. The horse knew the road and roused to an
interested trot, his ears pricked forward towards
home. Fan took the whip out.
**It's queer you never ran across them before," she
said. "But then you don't go down to the beach
often. It seems a pity. I should think you'd go
over and see them. I know the cottage; it's the end
one out beyond the new hotel. It isn't far on your
"Oh, I don't know!" He lit a cigarette, shielding
the match flame with his hands as they drove. "I
don't think one wants to ... see people so much
on a vacation, do you?"
"It depends on the people. I should think you*d
want to see friends at any time."
She flicked the horse with the whip and sent him
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 143
forward along the road. She was conscious of an
irritation with King. It was one of those moments
when his diflSdence amounted in her eyes to an affec-
tation. He deepened the impression a moment later
by saying : "It's a case of whether they want you."
He was thinking of the relative relation between
an occasional contributor to the Vagabond and the
Vagabond's editor. It was a position which never
existed in Harding's company, but which existed for
King rather definitely, at moments, outside it For
Harding himself he had a boyish admiration and
enthusiasm, the attitude of the young man who
hopes to do things toward the older man who has
already done them. It was just this attitude which
sensitised in a measure his pride. He had carried the
latter to morbid lengths before now in avoiding the
obvious chances for Harding's kindness. It was the
pride of obscurity, which is sometimes keener than
the pride of arrogance.
"I guess they wouldn't ask you if they didn't want
you," said Fan. In her own mind she added; "And
you needn't be afraid I'm coming too!'*
THE road to Wright's mills branched off at
right angles through the woods from the
Heronwood road, resolving itself, after the first mile,
into a mere sandy cart-track half lost among the
pines. The underbrush grew thick and close, brush-
ing the waggon-wheels as they drove, an impene-
trable jungle of young oak and sassafras and huckle-
berry bushes. Clouds of mosquitoes rose from the
disturbed foliage. The air was moist and breathless,
like the air of a hothouse, and a limpid sea-green
underlight dwelt below the interlaced branches.
The wheels sank deeply into the loose greyish sand,
giving to the buckboard something of the lurching
movement of a small boat on a heavy sea.
In one place the underbrush was scantier, and the
exposed pine-trunks charred and blackened pear
their base, the tide-mark left by some past sea of
flame. Here and there a dead tree, killed by fire,
stood out among its neighbours, its needles scorched
to a bright rust colour. Fan pointed out the burned
trunks with her whip.
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 145
"There's been a forest fire here since the last time
I came," she said. "It's been both sides of the road
but it didn't go very high. You can see."
She put the whip back and wound the reins round
it, letting the horse take his own pace through the
"I'd hate to meet a fire in these woods," she said
after a minute.
"What would you do?"
She turned a quaint look on him.
"Sit still, I guess. Why? Did you think you
smelled smoke?" She laughed, leaning back against
the seat. "It would be a pity to get burned up before
we got to Wright's mills," she added.
"It would rather. How far are we?"
"Getting nervous? I don't know how far we are.
Maybe we've come the wrong road. I haven't driven
here for over a year. It'll be good one on me if I've
forgotten the way !"
She fell to whistling, watching the road before
them for the first parting of the trees. The old
black horse plodded leisurely, twitching his ears at
the mosquitoes that buzzed in legions about his
head. He had the resigned gait of an animal to
whom all destinations are alike.
"There's the mill," said Fan at last.
146 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
Greyish timbers showed through the trees a little
distance ahead. The road came out in a clearing,
dotted with stumps. There was a low plank bridge,
crossing a stream that trickled deep wine-colour
from the cedar swamp, and on the further side stood
the mill, a ruinous frame building that looked un-
comfortably desolate even in the sunshine. The
roof had broken away in places and the windows
were mere vacant gaps of black.
They left the waggon at the side of the clearing,
and picked their way across the debris to the door.
Part of the chimney had fallen, and the ground was
scattered with bricks. The door was nailed on the
inside. Fan put her shoulder against it and pushed.
"There's a window on the other side where we can
get in," she said.
He followed her roimd the angle of the building.
Weeds grew rank and thick up to the walls. There
was a window a few feet from the ground, and King
swung himself over the sill and helped her after him.
Inside was the close atmosphere of a building which
has stood abandoned through season after season of
sun and rain and snow. Cobwebs shrouded the
beams, and dust-motes flittered in the light that
came through cracks and openings. Some old sacks
lay on the floor and fragments of rusted machinery.
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 147
Everywhere on the beams and window-sills three
generations of picnic parties had carved initials;
crude half-obliterated records of summers that were
past, friendships that were forgotten; old secrets
that the mills preserved long after their human
sharers had gon^he way of the dust on its floor.
Fan crossed to a window overlooking the stream
and leaned her arms on the warped sill. The sun-
light coming from outside quickened the threads of
her hair to warm copper, gave rose-coloured outlines
to throat and face. Her young living presence seemed
to strike a note of revolt against the sombre desertion
of the building; an intrusion of the present upon the
past. King joined her, and they stood looking down
at the water that ran almost under their feet, clear
like wine in the shallows, deep blood colour in the
shade. There was something sinister in the flow of
it; it seemed to be dyed less by the stain of the
cedar roots than by the stains of human lives. It
was as if this water that filtered year after year
through the forest were dyed by some immemorial
tragedy, the curse of an enforced recollection. Some-
thing had happened centuries ago that the stream
would never forget.
"What an abominable brook," said King instantly.
"It looks like one of the plagues of Egypt I don't
wonder they abandoned the mill!"
148 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
"They abandoned it for the unromantic reason
that there wasn't enough water-power. That was
fifty years ago, I guess. Jakey Rose remembers
when they used to work it. 0>me on and look at the
rest of the place."
They wandered about the dim ^ empty building,
exploring comers, looking up at the broken roof,
the huge dusty beams. They picked a way across
rotting floor boards to where the big wheel hung
silent in its prison, and the water lapped against
slimy oozing woodwork. On the worm-eaten guard-
rail, polished by the contact of innumerable hands,
someone had carved letters, M and T, surrounded
by a neatly traced heart. The same design was
repeated further on, upon a door lintel, and Fan
said, "Look, that's older than the rest of the carving.
I guess someone did it that used to work here."
She looked curiously at the initials. "There's T. P.,
too. It's the same carving. Tom Pearce. There
was a Tom Pearce that used to work here once. He
was the grandfather of the Pearces that live up the
Oceanhouse road. He used to beat his wife. He
threw a hatchet at her once; I remember Sadie
Pearce telling me. They were rather proud of him.
I guess it's the same man."
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 149
They turned and walked back to the window by
which they had entered. King climbed through first,
then held out his hand to her.
"Stand back," she said. She gathered up her skirt
and jumped down, landing on the weeds and scattered
bricks beside him.
"Why, you're all over dust I Am I? It's inches
deep in there."
"You've got it all over your coat."
They brushed each other oflf, laughing.
"What's the time?" said Fan.
He pulled out his watch. "It's after six. How
the afternoon's gone. We must have been half an
hour in there."
"We took a good while coming. I suppose we'd
better be getting back if the horse is rested."
"What's the hurry?"
"All right," she said.
, They recrossed the bridge and sat down on a log
near the waggon. King rolled a cigarette.
"Will you have one?"
She nodded, and he handed the cigarette to her
and rolled another for himself. For a little while
they smoked in a companionable silence. The after-
noon light had deepened, and the surrounding trees
stood out in a level reddish glow. Strange hues of
ISO THE PRICE OF YOUTH
coral and umber played among fhe straight trunks
and tangled branches.
"What do you do with yourself all the winter?"
King asked presently.
"Oh, things," she said vaguely. She knocked the
ash from her cigarette. "There isn't very much to
do. Walks and drives when the roads am't too bad.
From January to March are the roughest months
here. We get terrific storms in January. It's worth
coming down to see the beach when there's a north-
easter on. You can hardly stand down there; it's
great. I've put Will's oilskins on sometimes and
gone down in the evenings."
"I never heard you speak about him before."
"No?" She paused. "He went away from here
about six years ago, after my mother died. He's
married somewhere. We never hear anything of
him. He went West."
"Is he older than you?"
"Eight years. He had a row with Dad," she said
after a moment. "I don't know . . . just what it was
about. They never did get on very well. He's
written once; two years ago, I guess."
She leaned her chin on her hand, watching the
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 151
sunlight on the pine-trunks. The blue smoke curled
up rotmd her face.
"I suppose you haven't many friends round here?*'
He pulled on his cigarette, which had nearly gone
out "I should think it was pretty dull for you," he
"Do you mind?"
She turned her head, smiling. "Oh, everything
goes in Jersey! It has to; I guess that's why," she
"I suppose you know that's a frightfully immoral
"No it isn't. It's as bad as saying that whatever
is is good. Whoever invented that catchword wasn't
trying to justify the universe; he was trying to justify
his own evasion of responsibility."
Fan looked down at the pine-needles across her
"I believe in taking things as they come," she said,
"so long as you can't make them any better. Certain
things happen certain ways, and that's all there is
"But they don't have to happen necessarily," he
152 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
"They do it all right, whether they have to or not
That's the point you can't get away from."
The sun, sinking, had dropped all at once below
the level of the trees, and there befell one of those
strange atmospheric transitions of the pine woods
which remind one of the approach of nightfall in
a musical comedy. There was a wonderful moment
while the pines stood out like cardboard, in a strong
haze of red and violet, each twig illumined, like trees
in an enchanted jungle. There was a copper sheen
on the fallen needles. Then the colour changed and
faded, deepening by half tones till the trees stood
bathed in a greenish twilight, and with the fading
came a chilliness into the air. The last trace of red
died out. Overhead the sky was of a pale lucent
green like chrysophrase.
Fan stood up.
"We'd better be getting back," she said. "It'll be
dark in an hour."
They loitered over starting then; the faint chill
had settled definitely in the air as they turned their
backs on the mill and struck off along the narrow
road through the woods. A little breeze that stirred
with sunset set the pine-boughs rustling, accentuating
the stillness. The sand grew deeper as they left the
clearing behind, and the horse slowed down to his
old patient walk.
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 153
"You might see if I put my jacket in," said Fan
He reached down and felt under the seat.
"It's here. Do you want it?"
She began to sing softly, plying the whip about
the horse's imperturbable back. Her voice seemed
rather to harmonise with the surrounding stillness
than to break it.
"In a cup of burnished gold,
Thule's king his dead love was pledging. . . ."
"Where did you learn that?" said King, as she
came to pause.
"A man who stayed here once used to sing it.
He only knew three songs. That was one of them."
"What were the others?"
" 'The Marseillaise' and 'Mr. Johnson Turn Me
Loose,'" replied Fan gravely. She added, "No, he
used to sing a lot of those things though. He knew
all the Faust music by heart; he could sit down and
play the whole score through in the dark. He had
a beautiful voice."
"No. I hate a tenor voice. He had a ... I don't
know. Baritone, I guess. I liked his singing any-
way." The horse, tossing its head, had hooked one
154 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
of the reins over the end of the shaft, and as she
reached forward to shake it free, she said : ''Isn't it
queer how music and colour generally go together—
in people I mean."
"Very often they do. He was an artist then?"
She nodded. King thought of the picture in the
sitting-room, and wondered whether she would say
more about him. He had his own theory about the
origin of some of Fan's opinions, delivered at odd
moments. They had not all of them the ring
of original conviction. With all her wilfulness he
fancied her rather easily influenced by anyone to
whom she took a liking. But she only went on
singing, glancing from side to side of the road as
they drove. It was getting dusk, and the horse had
to pick his way carefully over occasional fallen sticks
and tiny bushes, strays from the undergrowth, that
pushed here and there through the sand. The road
seemed to have grown narrower since they passed
along it two hours ago. Once in a while they had to
bend their heads to avoid low-hanging branches.
Presently Fan pulled the horse to a standstill, look-
ing about her.
"Do you remember passing that dead tree before?"
A stripped pine loomed grey and straight from
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 155
the sea of underbrush a little distance in front, like
a bleached skeleton among the green. King looked
at the tree, then at her.
"I don't remember noticing it. Why? Do you
think we've come wrong?"
"I don't know."
She walked the horse a few paces further. Just
beyond the dead tree the road forked. Fan studied
the two diverging sandy tracks, both precisely alike,
stretching off into the obscurity of the woods.
"Do you remember the place where the forest fire
was? We ought to have passed that again by now."
"Maybe it's farther on," King suggested.
"I don't think so. Not unless we've come a good
way round. How long have we been driving?"
"Just over threequarters of an hour."
"We ought to have come to it by now," Fan said.
"Never mind. I guess that's our road anyway."
She pulled on the left-hand rein, and the horse
started forward reluctantly.
"All the roads round here are so much alike," said
Fan looked at him enigmatically.
"Yes," she said. "That's the beauty of them."
A PALLID twilight lingered interminably after
the sun had set. Through its ghostlike dusk
the trees took sudden and startling shapes. Here
a stripped trunk glimmered imccMnfortably, or a dead
branch thrust out like a naked human arm. Insects
that woke with evening chittered in the underbrush,
and their persistent isolated shrilling marked a grow-
ing loneliness in the woods. It was an hour of grey-
ness and mystery, of strange sotmds and curious
rustling silences. The stunted pines took a new
dignity; they seemed to stretch and breathe more
freely, grow taller; assert their claims, as the im-
memorial lords of the forest, against htunan intrusion.
The waggon toiled slowly through the soft, thick
sand. In front the road stretched like a pale in-
definite aisle between the tree-trunks, losing itself in
obscurity, revealing always the same monotonous vista
of sand and pines and huckleberry bushes, dense un-
dergrowth and interlacing boughs.
For scMne time Fan had not spoken. She had
driven in a preoccupied silence, searching for possible
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 157
landmarks in the failing light. As the twilight
deepened and none of the expected landmarks were
forthcoming, she began to laugh. King recognised
her attitude as setting the final seal upon their situa-
tion. Up till then he had credited her with some
vague notion of the road they were travelling.
When she laughed, the adventure resolved itself for
the first time.
"Well," he said. "I suppose this settles it."
"I guess so."
She answered laconically, pulling the horse up, and
looked about. There was nothing to distinguish the
road before them from any other of the hundred
narrow cart-tracks which run everywhere, in aimless
intersecting directions, through the Jersey woods.
Other waggons might have passed along it yesterday,
or a year ago. In the rainless stmimer the wheel-
tracks would remain fresh for weeks. Somewhere
a branch snapped, and the sound, coming sharply on
the listening stillness, made them both jtimp.
Fan gathered up the reins again.
"I suppose the only thing to do is to keep on.
This road must come out somewhere. We'd better
stick to it till we find out. I wish I knew where
"Have you any idea?"
"Not an atom."
158 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
King laughed gaily.
"My dear young lady, you had better make up
your mind to face the inevitable fact that we are lost
Lost completely, irrevocably, and without hope."
**0h, we can't be lost!" said Fan.
**Anything can happen in Jersey, as you once
remarked. Apparently it has. What are you going
She reached for the whip. The horse, tired out
with fruitless plodding, halting, and turning, had
developed during the past half-hour a gait of com-
plete indifference to further happenings. The digni-
fied slant of his Roman nose conveyed a reproach
that was ahnost humiliating. The way he set down
his hoofs expressed a jaded tolerance of these human-
kind who did not know their own minds.
"There are moments," said King, watching him,
"when one realises the beneficence of Providence,
which created animals dumb. If that horse could
speak we should wilt under a flow of sarcasm. When
he looks at me I feel my self-respect ebbing by
degrees. Let's put up a bluff at all costs ! Once he
finds out we don't know the road we shall be at his
mercy. I have always been so fond of this short cut to
Massachusetts, haven't you?" he went on, raising his
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 159
voice. "It's so pretty further on, where one comes to
the rustic bridge "
"I don't know whether you want that horse to
imagine that we are crazy as well as incompetent,"
said Fan sternly. "Besides, I have known him four-
teen years, and you couldn't put up a bluff on him if
"Oh, he won't mind me! He will put down any
vagaries on my part to the inevitable madness of the
city-dweller. It is on you that the brunt of his con-
tempt will fall. I'd hate to live with a horse that had
watched me grow up and know that I had proved
myself a failure in his eyes. After this fiasco you'll
never feel comfortable in his presence again. I feel
so sorry for you, because I know just what it will be.
Your whole future will be blighted. Years after, you
will mention Wright's mills in a light-hearted mood,
and that animal will turn round and transfix you with
a stony stare. If you take my advice, you'll sell him
and buy an automobile."
"Or aii official map of New Jersey !"
Both laughed absurdly. Out here in the woods it
took very little to make a joke. The old magic of the
forest was about then, the irresponsible spell of the
green-wood where youth and age are one and wisdom
makes for nonsense; and for the time being they
were simply two of its children. Civilisation was
i6o THE PRICE OF YOUTH
remote. They might have been two adventurers
journeying through a world entirely their own.
Gradually the twilight closed and deepened, shad-
ows lost distinction. Darkness set in, the fine scented
dusk of the pines. Tiny creeping sounds multiplied
in the stillness.
"I wonder where we are?" said Fan for the hun-
"If we had a planchette we could ask it"
The question did not present itself to either of
them as being of very immediate importance. King
lit his pipe.
"What on earth is the good of wondering?" he
said. "They will send search parties out for us pre-
sently, if we have patience, and we shall find our-
selves the heroes of a two-column story in the Sunday
papers. Think of the glory of it! 'Lost in the Pine
Woods. The Extraordinary Adventures of two Pre
sumably Sane People in the State of New Jersey.' If
we ever get out we could work it up ourselves on
half-shares, with illustrations. I know a man who'd
fake them for us. Picture of the pine woods. Picture
of the sign post we ought to have found and didn't.
Picture of the road we oughtn't to have taken and did.
Panoramic view of a rubbish heap in the neighbour-
hood of Wright's mills. HucJcleberry bushes on the
road to Wright's mills. Picture of another part ^
THE PRICE OF YOUTH i6i
*TDon't be so ridiculous!" cried Fan. She began
to laugh again helplessly.
"What are we going to do?"
"Do?" said King cheerfully. "Oh, just keep onl"
With nightfall the woods had grown chilly, but
once in a while a warm breath of air met the
wanderers' faces out of the darkness, as if some huge
unseen creature of the forest sighed in its sleep. In
these vagrant exotic puffs of air, companioned always
by a deeper hush of silence, there was something in-
explicable, uncanny, even though one knew it to be
merely part of the phenomena of the pines. King
remembered that the darkies had a superstition re-
The trees developed in the darkness weird vagaries
of form and position. They seemed to crowd and
jostle to the edge of the road, stretch dry, clutching
fingers at one's hair. It was as if, released from
daylight thraldom, they changed at nightfall into
malignant personalities. They stretched and breathed
and tittered, rocked themselves to and fro, hugging
their branches in a ghoulish rhythmic dance. ScMne-
times they tramped, keeping abreast of the waggon
with great springy stride^, dragging their roots
through the crackling underbrush. Occasionally one
tree stepped out from the ranks of its companion^
i62 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
and straddled across the way. Whenever this hap-
pened the horse stopped short, and King had to
get out of the waggon and lead it back into the road
again. Generally they held conflicting opinions as to
which was the road, and the horse maintained its
views by dragging stubbornly at the bridle and tread-
ing on King's toes in the dark.
Twice they missed the road altogether, and only
found it again after centuries of groping through
pine-stumps and prickly underbrush. The second
time this happened they lost the buggy whip, and
King had to go back and hunt for it He spent
ten minutes in the search, floundering blasphemously
among huckleberry and sweet-fern, and when he
found the whip at last it was broken, having fallen
between the wheels. He had stubbed his toes against
tree-roots; his hands were covered with scratches
and his shoes full of sand. But his good humour
remained unassailable. It was as if their adventure
had roused in him a new spirit of boyishness, helped
and brought about by the free unspoiled isolation and
friendliness of the pine-woods. Under their spell he
seemed to lose the little artificialities of his every-day
self, to become for once simply the natural easy
comrade. His very laughter had a different ring.
Fan, meeting his mood half-way, felt that the hour
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 163
put their friendship on a new basis. She liked him
better than she had ever done before.
Nevertheless, as they drove through the darkness,
the possible real value of the affair was beginning to
dawn upon him by degrees. More than once it
occurred to him to wonder whether it had also
dawned upon her. He glanced at her as she sat
beside him in the driving-seat, her head held a little
back and her face a mere pale blur above her up-
turned jacket-collar. Their fund of gaiety had for
the time exhausted itself, and they had relapsed, for
the last half mile, into the tacit silence of companion-
ship. Around them stretched the vast kindly dusk
of the pine-woods, a formless blackness wherein tree
melted into tree, shadow into shadow. The crunch-
ing of the wheels broke a stillness which was in effect
only a quivering web of sound. Ever3rwhere twigs
were rustling, branches creaking, tiny noises signi-
ficant of the eternal prowess of growth and decay
going on ceaselessly day and night. Something
stirred a mile away, and the sound was caught up
and echoed and multiplied. And everywhere, over
these leagues of scrub forest, where dynasty after
dynasty had arisen and flourished and passed away,
was being waged the old eternal death-struggle of
the oak and the pine. King almost fancied he could
hear this struggle going on about him, an inarticulate
i64 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
voiceless conflict, tree forcing tree, the new life crowd-
ing out the old, in the great civil war of the forest
Presently a flat copper moon rose inch by inch
above the level of the pine boughs. Shadows de-
fined themselves across the loose trampled sand of
the road; the ground took form and colour and the
twigs of the nearest trees stood out in a frost-like
Somewhere a night-hawk whirred and screeched,
three harsh rapid cries. It roused King from a
"Did you hear that?"
Fan shifted her position in the waggon, leaning
back. The sound of their voices, lowered uncon-
sciously, served to break the spell of a silence that
had become almost too finely stretched. King moved
his feet, cramped in the narrow space of the waggon,
and looked at his watch.
"What's the time?" asked Fan without turning.
"Only just ten."
"I thought it was more."
"That's all. Are you tired?"
"You'd better let me drive a while," he said.
"No. I'm all right."
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 165
There was authority in his voice. She stopped
the horse before realising that she had intended to
do so, and they changed places. She was not sorry
to move; she had been sitting in one position for
nearly three hours, and her fingers were stiff with
holding the reins. As they resettled themselves his
arm slid naturally along the back of the seat.
She leaned back with an odd new sense of content-
ment. Overhead the moon rode high and remote
in a cloudless vault of dark blue. It threw their
shadows, and the bobbing outline of the horse's
head, long and sharp across the laced pattern of
branches on the road. There was a cold frosty light
on the trees about them, and the greyish sand of the
road looked like snow. The vista before them stood
out in the negative blacks and whites of a winter
For some little time the road had widened imper-
ceptibly. The trees grew thinner and smaller, a
second growth that had sprung up since the land was
cleared. Old burned stumps stood out here and
there among the low tangle of bushes. They passed
a narrow belt of cranberry bog, where planks
i66 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
spanned the road, with a ditch on either side.
Presently King said, "Look, there's a clearing."
The woods parted all at once, and they were out
on a hard level road, with telegraph-poles along it
There were more pines on the opposite side, dense
and close growing like those through which they had
driven. King turned to her.
"Shall we toss up for which way ?"
Fan hesitated a moment. "To the right," she said
"Do you know this road?"
"I think so. It looks like a part of the Heron-
wood road. I can tell further on."
It was a frank lie, but one way was as good as
another. She had some vague sense of direction,
and it was in her mind that she didn't want to get
back to Matehocken just yet. She was enjoying the
drive too much willingly to shorten it. They would
have to reach home sometime, but now they were
out of the woods she had a sudden reckless desire
to prolong the adventure as far as possible. One
might as well hang for a sheep as a lamb. She
reflected that when her father came to know of the
evening's work there would be a row anyway, and it
might as well be a good row while she was about it.
She would take her enjoyment while she could.
King turned the horse about.
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 167
"We'll try it, anyway," he said.
They drove for a time in silence. Gradually the
pines gave way to cleared land, wide spaces of
pasture, silvered by moonlight and dotted with tiny
cedar shrubs, and the pasture to fenced-in cornfields.
They were nearing civilisation again. The breeze,
after the heavy shut-in air of the pines, felt pleasantly
cool and fresh. There was in it a faint night sweet-
ness, a smell of orchards and moist earth and unseen
They came to a placard, nailed to a tree at the
comer of a field. King gave her the reins to hold
while he went over to look at it. He waded knee-
dfeep through weeds and brambles, and when he got
close up he read :
WHEN YOU VISIT MONTEREY
DUQUESNE'S FRENCH RESTAURANT.
In the light of their wanderings the advice struck
him as a rather fine achievement of local humour.
It was like telling a man lost in Central Asia the
best place to get his shoes blacked when he came
to New York. But as he climbed back into the
waggon Fan said:
"Monterey? We can't be near Monterey I"
"Why? Isn't there such a place?'*
i68 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
"Yes, there is. But it's miles oflF."
"In that case we ought to be nearly there. How
far is it from Matehocken?" he asked.
"About . . . nine miles. It's out Heronwood way."
"Do you know the road back when you get there?"
"Yes. I've been there — ^in the daytime."
"Then I guess we'd better push on," said King
She looked at him rather oddly. "All right," she
said. He gathered up the reins and they started on.
"We can ask when we come to a house," King
said. After a while he added, "We may fetch up in
the Heronwood asylum yet before we get through 1
It would be a fitting end to this evening's adventures.
If the worst comes to the worst, we might go there
and give ourselves up on the charge of convicted
vagrancy. We would probably find it more comfort-
able than the workhouse."
At the first house they came to everyone was
asleep. King went up and hammered fruitlessly on
the door. All the windows were dark and the lower
shutters fastened. He went round to the side door
and tried that. There was no response, and in return-
ing he fell over an empty box and barked his ankles
"I guess all the folks died last week," said Fan.
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 169
"Maybe it was smallpox. Is there anything worth
King groped about the front yard. "There^s a
pump. Do you want a drink ?" he called.
"If the dipper's clean."
"You'll have to take it on faith."
He picked the dipper up, but it was chained, and
flew back from his hand against the pump with a
loud clang. Almost immediately an upper window
was flung vidleritly open and a woman's head thrust
out, embellished with curlpapers.
"Whatjer want?" she demanded sharply. "Who
King stepped backward, craning his neck. "Can
you tell me ^" he began, but Fan interrupted him
from the waggon.
"Is this Vannote's house?" she called.
"No, it ain't!"
The window was slammed viciously. It shot up
again a moment later, and the woman leaned out. This
time she had a patchwork counterpane about hef .
"Do you want the Vannote that keeps the saloon
over to Monterey, or the Vannote that peddles?"
"The Vannote that peddles," said Fan unhesi-
"It's the next house up the road, but he ain't to
170 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
"I thought this was his house. Are you sure it
isn't? Whose house is it?"
"It's Mrs. Johnson's, an* I'm Vannote's wife sister.
What do you want him for?"
"We just wanted to see him on business."
"Well, he ain't home. You can leave the message
"I'm afraid we can't. It's rather particular. He's
got a son, hasn't he ?"
"Yes, he has, an' you wanter leave him alcxie too.
I'm his aunt."
"What a pity I"
"What's that? I can't hear yer."
Fan raised her voice.
"I said it was a pity he wasn't at home. We made
sure we'd find him. Maybe he's in Monterey?"
"How far are we from Monterey?" King put in.
Vannote's wife's sister transferred her attention to
"What do you want at Monterey?"
This was too much for King.
"We wanted to inquire at the Baptist chapel about^
obtaining a piano-organ on the hire system," he re-
turned. "Is there anything we can do for you there?"
"No, there ain't. An' you wanter get out o' here,
young man, an' keep a civil tongue in your head.
This is a respectable house "
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 171
"I'm sure it is," he murmured.
"^'What you sayin' about my house? If you don't
get out right now Til sis the dog on ye!"
"Do you mind telling us how far we are from
"Are you going to git outer here?"
"When you tell us ^"
"I'll sis the dog on ye. You mind me. I ain't
goin' to be dragged out of my bed this time o' night
by no red-headed "
There were sounds of sudden collapse from the
waggon. King turned and fled. The voice of
Vannote's wife's sister pursued them up the road,
growing thinner and shriller till it faded at last in
"Guess the old woman's pretty mad," said Fan. "I
don't wonder her brother-in-law took to jpeddling!"
The horse slowed down to a walk. They reached
some straggling houses, set back behind front gardens,
and the desultory beginning of a sidewalk.
"I'd like to go back that way and fix something
up on her. Fancy her having the nerve "
"Who's the Vannote that peddles?" said King.
"It sounds rather romantic."
"I never heard of him before."
The road took a sudden turn, and they found them-
selves in Monterey.
"T Tl TE ought to get the horse a drink," said Kling.
V V "I wonder if there's any place open still."
He did not want to look at his watch again just
now, but he had a strong notion that it must be after
twelve. He hoped Fan wouldn't ask him what the
time was. As long as they were out on the country
roads, where they met no one, it hadn't mattered,
but now, brought face to face again with lights and
houses and civilisation, the responsibilities of the
adventure were beginning to work through uncom-
fortably in spite of him. He almost wished they
could have skirted the town altogether. He looked
about him at the street through which they were
driving and half-consciously pulled the horse to a
It was a wide street, with stone sidewalks edged
by maple trees, and elaborate frame-houses, with
wide trellised porches, standing back behind little
shaven lawns, cool green in the electric light, and
patterned with quivering tree-shadows. It all looked
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 173
quiet and peaceful and ominously decorous, confront-
ing the wayfarers with a new appreciation of their
position. Here and there one of the little close-
cropped lawns had been recently watered, and the
cooling smell of drenched turf rose pleasantly on
the night air. Most of the houses were shuttered,
but from one of them, which had in front flower-
beds laid out in gay colours, there came through the
wire-screened windows a flood of soft lamplight and
the tinkling of a piano, playing a Sousa two-step.
Once a small terrier, asleep on some piazza steps,
started up and barked at them indignantly.
"Do you know anyone here?" asked King casually.
"Not a soul. I've only been in the town twice."
He shifted the reins between his fingers.
"We might go to one of the hotels, if they're
open. I should think it would be all right. Am't
"So am I. We could get a drink anyway. I
guess there's nothing the matter with trying?"
"I don't care."
They turned oflF into the main street. Here, under
the arc lamps, everything looked cheerful and wide-
awake, despite the hour. The post office was closed,
but there was a drug-store open, and a big white-and-
174 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
gold hotel at the next comer showed quite a welcome
of lights. There seemed a good many people about
still. Two buggies and an automobile were drawn
up outside the hotel, from the dining-room windows
of which, as they drew nearer, came the strains of a
waltz. There was a general air of leisure and pros-
perity about the building itself; the wide porch,
where men were lounging and chatting — ^ prevalence
of Panama hats and riding-boots — ^the tall, green
palms that showed just inside the lighted vestibule.
The two waiting buggies outside looked smart and
King pulled the horse up and gave the reins to
"Do you mind waiting outside till I go in and
see what it's like?" he said,
He ran up the steps and disappeared inside the
vestibule. The bare-headed girl and the shabby buck-
board made rather an incongruous picture, waiting
outside under the electric light, and Fan was con-
scious that one or two of the loungers stared at her
curiously. She began to wish she had a hat on, and
she regarded the horse's head steadfastly until King
returned. He was not gone many minutes. When
he came back he was carrying a ttmibler in his hand.
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 175
"I brought yours out," he said "I thought you
needn't bother to get out of the waggon."
He said nothing more about a meal, and she felt
intuitively that for some reason he was anxious to
get away as soon as possible. The knowledge
determined her obstinately not to hurry, and she
drank her ginger-ale slowly, conscious that he was
fidgetting to be off. Voices reached them from the
interior of the hotel, where the waltz strains had
ceased, and an occasional burst of laughter. People
seemed to be having rather a good time in there.
Fan liked the lights, the stir of gaiety. She didn't
see why he should be in such a hurry to go; five
minutes couldn't make much diflference on the home-
Two men detached themselves from the group on
the piazza and began to get the automobile under way
for departure. King put out his hand.
"No," said Fan. She made a deliberate feint of
emptjdng her glass. She felt that he knew she was
dawdling purposely, and she resented it. Jt was the
first disagreeable moment of their evening. She
gave the tumbler back to him at last.
"Am't you going to get the horse a drink?**
"I guess we can get that further on.''
176 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
He took Ac tsofftj luniMri rack* and cBmlifn
into die waggoo ^gain beside her. As fhej passed die
end of die ^w j f f j , a. jomig nBOy lounpog' agaiait
die rnly calVd fjniiTuflj r
•OTov Fan! Nice eraungr
King turned dafplr. Fan bad turned too^ but
when be glanced at ber she was lookni^ stra^it
abead down die l^;bted sHecL Her face bad flushed
-^'ondcr who diat was?*
•^Vho what was r
*T)idn't someone call yoa?^
''Oh. I don't know," she said indifidrentty. 1,
She was lying, and he felt it. He touched the
horse up with the whip, and they drove off down
the empty street, past the dosed shops, the deserted
sidewalks. All the life of the town seemed to centre
round the hotel; here was simply the usual stillness
of a small country borough at midnight. Once they
had turned their back on the lights of the town an
odd constraint settled on them. Each felt it. It was
the inevitable reaction from the evening's high spirits.
Their good-humour had temporarily spent itself, and
the adventure was dragging to a close. They were
coming back to everyday things, everyday limitations.
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 177
Fan spoke scarcely at all. She let King drive
most of the way, and sat leaning forward, her chin
on her hands, staring out down the long grey road.
Once he said to her: "Are you asleep?"
She barely roused herself to answer him, and for
the rest of the way he left her to her silence.
The house, when they reached it, showed a blank
unwelcoming front. They got in by the unbolted
back door, after putting the horse away, and Fan
groped for matches and lit the kitchen lamp. The
table showed a confusion of unwashed supper dishes.
King held the light for her while she rummaged
through the ice-chest for food. They found milk
and sausage and cold rice-pudding. Something of
the earlier mood of the evening returned to them
over the impromptu meal. Both were hungry, and
they laughed and joked across the littered table,
with the feeling of conspiracy inevitable to two
people lunching surreptitiously while the rest of the
household sleeps. They re-dwelt upon their wander-
ings, the chained dipper and the encounter with
Vannote's wife's sister, but neither of them mentioned
When Fan rose finally to go, she said: "I guess
178 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
ril take this lamp up with me. Can you find your
"Sure. Good night."
"Good night I" she said.
He heard the entry stairs creak cautiously under
her steps. He lingered a moment in the dark
kitchen, picking up the matches oflf the table and
put them in his pocket. Then he heard her coming
"I forgot the door. Do you mind seeing to it?"
She had set the lamp down on the top step, and
the flood of light behind her threw her figure into
relief as she paused half-way down the enclosed
"Good night," he said again. "Oh, dash itl"
"What's the matter?"
"I dropped the matches."
"I'll bring the lamp."
"Never mind. It's all right."
He went down on one knee and began to gather
them up. She left the lamp at the head of the
stairs, where its light threw a straight Beam across
the entry floor, and went back to help him. The
matches had dispersed with the instantaneous facility
of their kind, and it took a long while to collect
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 179
them. In the single lamp ray the brown head and
the red were momentarily close together.
"I guess that's the last," said King. "Thanks."
He took her hand to help her up, and held it a
moment longer than he had ever done before, half
drawing her towards him. Their eyes met and she
turned swiftly away, pulling her hand from him
almost sharply, and fled up the narrow staircase.
She seemed to forget that she had left him
entirely without a light. He went back and found
the kitchen door, feeling for the bolts in the dark.
When he got upstairs her door was shut, but the
faint yellow chink from under it guided him across
the creaking, uncarpeted landing to his own. He
undressed and went to bed, and slept the untroubled
sleep of the healthily tired.
In the next room Fan, for the first time in her
life, lay awake through long restless hours, staring
with wide eyes into the darkness.
MRS. SALES trailed into the room where Fan
was clearing away the breakfast things.
"You got home pretty late last night, didn't
you?" she began genially.
"Did it disturb you?"
"No, indeed. You come in so quiet I wouldn't
have heard you — only I just happened to be sittin'
up reading. I didn't like to go to bed till I knew
you was safe in," she added.
"TJiere wasn't the slightest occasion for you to
have waited, thanks."
"What kept you late?"
"We missed our way," said Fan shortly.
Mrs. Sales smiled.
"You chose a good night for it, didn't you ?"
"What do you mean?"
Fan turned and faced her coldly.
Mrs. Sales smoothed out the folds of her wrap-
per, smiling still.
"Oh, nothin'," she said. "Only it seems kind
THE PRICE OF YOUTH i8i
of funny you should go out and miss your way and
not get back till two o'clock in the momin', just
the one night your father happened to be away in
the city." She lifted her eyes full to the girl's face.
"Of course, it ain't any of my business. Only
I guess you needn't be holdin' your head so high
above other people's, that's all."
"When I want your opinion on my actions," said
Fan slowly, "I'll ask for it. Do you understand?"
"All right. You needn't get mad. I was only
thinkin' it would sound kind of queer if it got
about. People don't get lost in the pine-woods quite
so easy as a rule, particularly on moonlight nights,
and particularly when they know all the roads as
well as you do. However, it's your look-out, not
mine. Only I wouldn't get to talking about it too
much, if I was you. It don't hang together quite
Fan set her lips. King happened to come into
the room at the moment, and Mrs. Sales turned
to him smilingly.
"Good morning, Mr. King," she drawled. "I was
just sayin' how awful funny it was. Fan losin' her
way like that last night."
"Yes, we did have quite a time," said King easily.
"Was Miss Tasker telling you? I must claim most
i82 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
of the credit. We got talking and never noticed
the road. We got on a wrong turning from Wright's
He was looking about the room for his pipe— he
generally managed to mislay it, two mornings out
of three — and he did not see Mrs. Sales' eyes travel
guilelessly from his face to Fan's and back again.
"Wright's mills," she said. "Was that where you
went? Why, that's where the picnic parties go—
off the Heronwood road, isn't it? I should have
thought that was a pretty straight road."
"We got balled up, anyway. Did you see my
pipe. Miss Tasker?"
"I think it's in the parlour," said Fan.
"I thought I — ^never mind. I've got it."
He picked it up from where she had put it ten
"It's a good joke on Fan," Mrs. Sales purred,
watching him, "seein' she always claims she knows
all the roads round here so much better than anyone
It was just the shade of cltmisiness that gave her
away. King turned, with the pipe in his hand.
"Exceptions prove the rule, don't they?" he said
Mrs. Sales got up. She was never quite at her
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 183
ease in King's company. She turned for a parting
shot as she reached the door.
"Well, I don't see now how she come to miss it.
I think it's awful funny. But I guess it didn't
matter, so long as you had a nice ridel"
She retired equably, her wrapper trailing after her
round the comer of the door. King lingered in the
room a few minutes, cheery, matter of fact; then he
filled his pipe and wandered out.
Left to herself, Fan went about her household
tasks slowly. So it was going to be war. Well,
she didn't mind. She had had last night It had
been one good time, while it lasted, and if she had
to pay for it she didn't care. One paid for every-
thing in this world; she had learnt that gospel long
ago. It was just a question of choosing the things
that were worth having.
In the shabby, familiar room, with the sunlight
pouring in through open windows, the memory of
last night's drive came home to her; the moonlight,
the silence, the stretches of sleeping country, till she
was more acutely conscious of everything in retro-
spect than she had been at the time. She lived over
every moment again, and with the recollection came
a new fierce joy, a self-consciousness that sent the
blood tingling to her face, though there was no one
i84 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
in the room. She put up her hand to her cheek
instinctively, as though the furniture about her had
eyes that knew. She had passed the first milestone
on the road of youth. Something familiar had gone
out of her life, something fresh had come into it, and
as yet the new was strange. She had a fleeting
sense that she wanted things to stay for a time
as they were; to have no further change, no further
It was one of her muddly mornings. Breakfast
had been late and everything was behindhand. She
was hurrying to get through, to get out into the
open air by herself before dinner, and everything
seemed to take twice as long as on other days. She
went out into the kitchen and found Phemy among
a litter of unwashed dishes, despondently collapsed
upon a chair. There seemed to have been no
attempt at getting the morning's work through.
She began to groan at once when Fan came in.
"Oh, Fan, I feel awful bad," she said.
There was no immediate sympathy on Fan's face.
Joy has a way of making us harder-hearted than
sorrow. Once or twice lately Phemy had com-
plained of feeling queer in the mornings, and she
had noticed that the attacks usually coincided with
any extra amount of housework. In a way, Phemy
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 185
had certainly not improved since Mrs. Sales came
to stay in the house. Between them had developed
with small delay a friendliness that amounted to
comradeship. Mrs. Sales used to come into the
kitchen and chat sympathisingly with Phemy over
her work, partly because it was a necessity with her
to have someone to talk to, even though it were
only a girl Phemy's age; chiefly, as Fan was aware,
for the purpose of annoying herself. Fan never
gave her the satisfaction of knowing that she suc-
ceeded. She chose simply to ignore the new
combination of forces in the househqjrf ' as being one
of the things that weren't worth troubling about;
knowing perfectly well that as soon as Mrs. Sales
had gone Phemy would return gladly enough to
the old allegiance. Meantime Phemy fetched and
carried for Mrs. Sales, n^lected her work to per-
form that lady's minor errands, at first shame-
facedly, then with a pert self-assertion that set Fan's
authority at naught. Mrs. Sales was one of those
people who derive a good-natured satisfaction from
giving away small articles for which they have no
further use themselves. She was in the habit of
lavishing indiscriminately little personal trifles of
which she had grown tired, and if Phemy did not
actually shake the tree she at least took good care
i86 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
to stand underneath. Fan suspected that a good
many things beside the fancy waist-buckle had found
their way to the girl's possession.
She looked round now at the untidy kitchen, then
at Phemy, crouched in an attitude of self-condolence,
her handkerchief up to her mouth. The girl's
cheeks were flushed a little, and there were dark
circles about her eyes. She was looking really ill,
despite her obvious attempt to make the worst of it.
Fan glanced at her with the contempt of healthy
youth for other people's minor ailments.
"What's the matter with you?" she demanded.
"Is your head aching? Where do you feel sick?"
"I don't know r
"You must know ! I should think you'd better get
up off that chair and go and sit nearer the window.
I'll do the dishes."
"I dasn't move. I'm awful bad. I'm sick at my
"What made you sick?" Fan pursued ruthlessly.
"I don't know. I guess it was the coffee. I turned
awful sick soon's I touched it. I couldn't eat any
breakfast an' my head all went round. I guess I'm
. . . awful ill!"
Fan's tone softened a little.
"Wouldn't you rather go home?*
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 187
"No. I— don't want to."
A sudden furtive look came into her blue childish
eyes. She dropped her head in her hands again.
"I . . . just wanter stay quiet."
"Well, you won't get any better sitting all hunched
up that way! Why don't you go in the parlour and
lie down awhile! There isn't anyone there. I'll see
to all these. Were you sick when you left home?'*
''No. I . . . guess it was the smell of the coffee."
Fan went to the sink and filled the dish-pan. As
she reached across the table to gather the china to-
gether her hand touched a tumbler that was pushed
away on the opposite side, where Phemy had been
sitting. She picked it up and sniffed at it. Her eyes
met Phemy's sharply.
"Did you have this?"
"No wonder you talk about feeling sick at your
stomach! Did Mrs. Sales give it to you?"
"Y-yes. She . . . said it'd s-settle me." With
Fan's eyes upon her she began to whimper defensively.
"An' you needn't 1-look like that either! I guess if
you felt as bad as I do you'd take anything too !"
Fan turned to her dish- washing, plunging her hands
decisively into the water.
"I guess if I couldn't stand a little sickness like
i88 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
other people without having to take brandy I
wouldn't want to talk about it !"
Her contempt, which was in reality far more for
Mrs. Sales than the girl, made itself brusquely
evident in her voice. Phemy began to feel herself
ill-used. Deep in her heart she still admired Fan
more than anyone else. She caught her breath
"Mrs. Sales is nice to me anyway. She's n-nicer
than you are ! I think you're awful mean, Fan. You
don't care how bad anybody is. Maybe you'd rather
me be s-sick an' d-die "
"You am't going to die. When you do you won't
be making such a fuss about it. Stop crying, Phemy.
I'm not mad at you. I only think it's a pity you
haven't got some sense, even if Mrs. Sales hasn't.
How many times has she given it to you before?"
"Only . . . once or t-twice."
The words came out guiltily. Fan's face hardened.
"Don't let on I told you ! I wouldn't have touched
it, only I felt bad."
"I'm not going to. If you felt ill why couldn't
you have told me?"
"You wouldn't have cared if I had! Mrs. S-Sales
How much of the story was real Fan had no means
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 189
of telling. She restrained a strong impulse to pick
Phemy up and shake the truth out of her.
"Does your mother know how many times Mrs.
Sales has been giving you brandy because you thought
you felt ill?"
"I don't know. I guess she wouldn't care. You
talk's if it was something wicked, Fan. She's given it
to me herself sometimes."
"Brandy? Don't sit there and tell me such liesT
"Fan, you're awful mean 1"
"Are you going to tell her?"
Fan waited inexorably, dish-cloth in hand.
"Are you going to tell her about it or would you
rather I did?"
"Fan, if you let on *'
"I thought so," said Fan grimly. She rinsed a cup
out and set it down on the table. "If I did what
was sensible I should go over and tell her the whole
story now. I'm not sure I shan't." Phemy knew
perfectly well she wouldn't, but she started whimper-
ing again. "Stop crying; there's no good making
yourself worse. And don't for heaven's sake sit and
look like that! I guess you am't going to be any
sicker than you are now. You'd better go up to my
room and lie down till dinner-time, and then if you
190 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
don't feel any better you can go home. I'll come up
presently and see how you are."
Phemy got up and crossed the floor dizzily, hold-
ing to the table-edge as she went. She paused
half-way, and the furtive look flickered beck mo-
mentarily in her eyes.
"And you — ^won't let on to mother. Fan ?"
Fan pretended to hesitate.
"Very well," she said at last.
"Not a word — ^not about me bein' sick nor noth-
ing? Cross yourself that you won't. Fan!"
Fan complied with the old girlish formula, me-
morial of school recesses and sworn secrets, half
smiling, half impatient at the triviality. Phemy
watched her earnestly, and a look of relief came
into her blue eyes.
"Honest to Grod?" she persisted.
"Honest to God. Now run along, Phemy, and
don't be a little goose any more."
And Phemy went, sniffing.
ONE morning, when Fan walked down for the
mail after breakfast, she found Dolly Harding
and her brother outside the store, pumping up the
tire of Jack's wheel. They had met once or twice
in the village since the evening at the drug-store, and
Dolly hailed her now gaily as she came down the
"Hello, Miss Tasker! Good morning. We've been
all way round by the upper bridge and Jack got a
puncture coming home. I believe Jack simply revels
in punctures; he's always having them. Isn't it a
lovely morning? It's going to be scorching presently.
Did you come down after your mail?"
Jack was on his knees in the dust, very red-faced,
and working heroically with a hand-pump while his
sister sat on the porch-step above him looking on.
She always let him do all the work on principle.
She domineered over him to an extent which never
seemed to interfere with their friendship; they were
the most frankly devoted couple Fan had ever come
192 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
across, though their expressions of affection always
took the form of insults.
"Isn't he poky? Fd have had that done in half
"Come and do it, then, smartyl" growled Jack
from the roadside.
"Not me ! It's good for you to work. You'd get
too fat; everyone says so. You live up the road
here, don't you, Miss Tasker?" she went on. "We
passed the house the other day, and we yelled and
waved like anything, but I guess there wasn't anyone
home. Say, when are you coming to our place ?"
"Oh, some day," Fan smiled.
"I think you might. Mr. King's been over twice.
Don't you like him? I think he's just great. He
was sta)dng the same place we were last year, and
we had more fun. . . . He's clever, too; that's why
I like him. Jack, if you chortle, I'll throw this pimip-
kin at you. Don't you think he is?" She galloped
on without waiting for an answer. "He can write
awfully well, when he likes. He's had things in the
Vagabond. Father says he don't know his own
value, and as he don't find it out, he's all right.
Father thinks a lot of him. He says he'll do big
things some day when he leaves off wearing other
people's clothes. I asked him what he meant, and he
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 193
wouldn't tell me. That's just like father. He's an
**I think he's very clever," said Fan.
"Oh, he is. But father's always saying things
like that about people. I guess I do know what he
meant, too, don't you? And he says that when
Mr. King grows up he'll be a lot younger. He said
that to him the last time he was at our house — ^they
were arguing about something — ^and Mr. King said :
*Oh, most probably!' You know the way he says it,
and father just laughed and laughed."
Fan laughed too. In future years that phrase
would always bring King to her mind more clearly
than anything else ; it was so exactly himself.
"Your father's very clever, isn't he?" she said.
"I've hear Mr. King speak of him a great deal."
"He's a dear!" said Dolly promptly, and the ex-
pression conveyed everything. "I do wish you'd
come over, and you'd say so too. Father isn't a bit
old. He's as young as — as Jack! I don't believe
he'll ever grow old as long as he lives."
Fan walked home, thinking. Much as she liked
Dolly, she was conscious of a jealousy, where King
was concerned, of anyone who had known him
longer than she had. Whenever she thought of his
outside life, his friends, his associations, she had the
same empty feeling, a sense of loneliness and resent-
194 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
mcnt. Dolly, with her childish ways, her slang, her
impulsive friendliness, was of another and different
world than her own, and it was King's world too.
It claimed him; he belonged to it; he had only
drifted into her own as a chance stranger, and she
knew that, strive as she would, the gulf was always
there. It was a different standard, a different point
of view. She could never be like these people; her
upbringing, her environment, all were against her.
Walking back along the roadside, the drenched
glittering weeds brushing her skirt, the fresh blue
stunmer morning about her, she thought it all over,
and felt the difference more keenly than she had ever
done before, brought home to her by Dolly's heedless
chatter. There were two sets of people in the world —
the people who were nice, who had nice things about
them, and the people who never had and never would.
It was a difference deeper than the mere difference
between riches and poverty; mere money could
never bridge it. King, in a way, was poorer than
herself. It was so hopeless trying. She felt a savage
resentment against her own surroundings, the things
that hemmed her in. She had put up a big bluff this
summer, and what was the good of it all? She knew
that everything in her own life was mean and
horrid and commonplace, and no amount of trying
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 195
made it better. And she hated it; she hated the
' world, she hated everything.
The house, when it came in sight at the bend of
the road, struck her afresh with a sense of hopeless-
ness. The fence with its peeling whitewash, the
neglected garden, the chickens scratching in the
sand, the ugly signboard over the porch. . . .
Once these things didn't seem to matter, but now
she saw it all critically, as with the eyes of a
stranger — ^the shiftlessness, the commonness. The
very fact of its familiarity made her view it now
with the greater dislike, condemn it more ruthlessly.
She wondered King had stayed on as long as he
had. She thought how it must have struck him,
the first time he ever saw it; things had been worse
then even than they were now.
In the parlour, with the shutters partially closed,
Mrs. Sales sat at the piano, playing the "Maiden's
Prayer." She played it with a great deal of ex-
pression, the bass parts very loud and the treble
slow and soulful. Her face held a kind of placid
childlike ecstacy and enjo)mient. Her cotton wrap-
per, soiled and tumbled, gaped in front, revealing
an elaborately trimmed under-garment and no cor-
sets. There was a half-emptied whiskey tumbler
on the piano in front of her.
She turned listlessly as Fan came in.
196 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
'Was there any maU?"
*'One— for you."
Fan threw an envelope, addressed in violet ink,
down on the table. "This room's close! I should
thing you might have had the windows open."
She went over and threw open the shutters on the
farther side of the room impatiently, letting in the
sunlight The room reeked, as it always did nowa-
days, of spirits and stale tobacco and the faint sickly
perfume of violet sachet. Mrs. Sales reached out in-
dolently for her letter.
"My, but it's hot !" she remarked as she broke the
"Hotl I should think it was hot, with the place
like a pigsty !"
"Well, and who keeps it like a pigsty? I ain't
responsible for the house, am I? I ain't the one
that's always fussin' an' complainin' !" The woman's
voice rose in a nervous pitch of argument.
Fan made no answer. Her glance fell on the reek-
ing whiskey tumbler, and she swept it up with a
quick gesture of disgust and carried it outside.
When she came back Mrs. Sales said : "You're get-
ting mighty fussy all of a sudden, am't you? I
can remember the time when you wasn't quite so
damn partic'lar about the way the house was kept !"
"I guess no one likes to come into a parlour at
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 197
ten o'clock in the morning and find it smelling of
"Then keep out of it," said Mrs. Sales.
She lounged back in the chair, watching the girl
as she moved about the room, perfunctorily putting
things to rights.
"Seems to me you think nothings quite good
enough for you an' your friends nowadays. If you
want the place decent, why don't you keep it decent,
instead of lolling round the woods all day with that
stuck-up red-headed city dude!"
Fan said nothing. It seemed that she had set her
lips resolutely against retort. Her gaze fell on a
book that was lying on the table. It was one of
King's that he had lent her; it had his name on the
frontispage, above the author's signature. Someone
had put down a wet glass on the cover, leaving a
"Look at that!" she exclaimed.
"What's the matter with it?"
Mrs. Sales lounged over to the table, hitching her
wrapper about her.
"Guess it ain't hurt so much. If you don't want
your things spoiled you should take better care of 'em."
"Who had it out?" cried Fan angrily. "I left it on
the bookshelf and no one had any right to touch it."
"Maybe I did. Let's see."
198 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
She stretched out her hand, but Fan snatched the
book up before her. Mrs. Sales laughed irritatingly.
"S'pose you think I'll dirty it! I don't want
your ^books! Fat lot of good may they do you!"
"You had no right ever to touch it!" Fan said
"I reckon I've got as much right to touch things
around this house as anyone, come to that."
"You !" Fan flung at her.
"Yes, me! And if you don't like it you can do
the other thing. You think you're mighty smart,
"You have no right in this house at all, and you
"Haven't I? Why don't you tell your father to
turn me out?" she jeered. "Why don't you? I
would if I was you. You know you daren't!"
Standing with the ruined book in her hand, Fan
could have cried for sheer nervous rage. It was the
little thing that had turned the balance, the last straw
to the summer's burden. Her father came into the
room, stopping short at the doorway.
"What's the matter?" he asked.
At the appearance of Tasker, Mrs. Sales relapsed
from her aggressive attitude. She became injured,
"Oh, nothin' much! She ain't quite satisfied with
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 199
the way the house is run, that's all. She don't like
to come down in the mornin's an' see cigar-ash on
the parlour mantelshelf. She don't like people drinkin'
whiskey an' smokin', and there's a few little things
ain't quite as fancy as what she's accustomed to, an'
she thinks maybe she could keep the parlour more
like the White House at Washin'ton if you and I
didn't use it to sit in in the evenin's." Her tone
changed abruptly. "She think's I ain't quite good
enough for her 'n her city friends, John, and that's the
root of it! She don't approve of me, an' she don't
approve of my ways. She's God Almighty, she is,
an' I ain't quite good enough to lick the dirt of her
shoes ! Comin' in here with her damned "
Tasker turned on his daughter.
"What have you been saying?"
"Oh, just a few little things like she always does —
when you am't round. Throwin' it up to me that
I ain't just what I should be. Why don't you speak.
Fan, an' tell your father some of the things you say
behind his back? Now's your chance. Why don't
you tell him you don't like me stayin' in the house,
an' you'd rather I went back to the city? Or are
you too much of a hypocrite to open your mouth?"
She had the advantage, and she pursued it ruth-
lessly. She had nothing to fear. She didn't mind
what she said, how far she degraded her own name
200 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
and Tasker's, exposed the household nakedness, and
Fan did. The girl set her teeth. Blind hatred was
surging within her. She Ufted her eyes to Mrs.
"That's the way she looks at me. Do you see it?
Me that's tried to be friendly with her ever since
I come to the house ! But I don't care, John ; I'll go
back. I'll go this day. I won't stay to be insulted
by a girl that's no better than I am, if the whole
truth was known. She's always wanted to drive me
out, with her ^sneering ways, an* now she can
do it I I won't stay • . . not another hour "
She collapsed into a chair and began to cry,
pulling out her lace-edged handkerchief. It was as
if a stout and amiable elephant should suddenly
dissolve into tears over the insecurity of its position.
Tasker, lounging against the door-frame, flushed with
a contorted sense of chivalry. His eyes were blue
and hard as he advanced into the room.
"I want to know what you said?"
"She s — s-said the p-parlour was a pigsty just
because I s-sat in itl"
Fan found her voice at last.
"I said I couldn't keep the house decent, and neither
I can, as long as she does everything she can to mess
it up ! I think it's hard, father. I try my best to keep
things nice *'
THE PRICE OE YOUTH 201
"And who's asking you to keep things nice?" said
Tasker. He had raised his voice a little, and it was
ominously level. "Who's asking you ? Fmnot! The
house is good enough for me the way it is, and if it's
good enough for me, it's good enough for you and your
friends. And it had better be, too, do you hear me?
If Mr. King doesn't like the way things are run around
here, I'm not keeping him. He can pay me his board
bill he owes three weeks on, and go somewhere else.
And as for you "
He turned on her savagely, swaying a little as he
stood. "Who do you think you are, anyway? I'm
master in this house, by God, and no one else is, and
I want you to know it! What I say goes!" He
brought his hand down heavily on the table. "And as
long as I'm master I intend that you shall keep your
tongue off of what don't concern you, and be civil to
my guests under my roof. You're as bad as your
mother was, thinking you're too fine to be touched or
spoken to! I didn't stand it from her, and by God I
won't stand it from you! You am't mistress here.
And I don't want no back talk about it, either. Do
you understand me? Now shut your mouth, and get
She turned, her head erect, out through the open
door and across the yard to the pine-woods. She
wanted to get away from the house, anywhere, out of
202 THE PRICE OE YOUTH
sight, out of hearing. Mrs. Sales' sobs, gradually as-
suming reassurance, followed her as she went. It was
the commonness, the vulgarity ... she felt as if she
had been dragged through the dirt. If her father had
struck her she would have minded it less. A chair,
pushed hastily aside, scraped on the porch. King had
been sitting there; he must have heard every
word through the open window. Well, it didn't
matter. • • •
She walked blindly, not looking where she was going,
till her hand struck against a pine tree in her path.
She stopped then, clinging to it, as though the contact
had broken some hypnotic spell that was on her, and
putting her wrist up buried her face against it, and
broke into hopeless sobbing. She cried with the shud-
dering restraint of one to whom tears come seldom,
each sob jarring her through and through, deepening
her defeat, sweeping away her last rag of self-respect.
In her overwrought condition she scarcely heard steps
behind her, the dry pine-needles crunching under a
man's tread, and it was not until King came up close
and touched her shoulder that she realised he had fol-
She lifted a hard, flushed face to him.
"Won't you go?" she said tensely.
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 203
"No, I won't go," he said, looking at her. "I won't
go till I' e talked to you. I want "
Her head went down on her wrist again. He could
see her whole body shrink and quiver under the stress
of her sobs. There was something sacred in the wit-
ness of her broken pride, the utter self-abasement of
her shame. He hated to stand and watch her, and he
wasn't going to leave her; he kept his ground
doggedly, turning away until she should recover
A tiny pine-cone lay on the ground near him. He
put out one foot and crushed it into the ground, tread-
ing down each fragment slowly, with the careful at-
tention one gives to irrelevant details in a crisis. She
raised her head again at last, and faced him. She
had left oflF crying, and her eyes were swollen and red-
"You were there," she said. "You heard?"
"Yes, I — ^heard. I couldn't help hearing."
"And you know that I told you a lie ?" He opened
his mouth, but she put up her hand to silence him.
Leaning back against the tree, her young figure
drawn to its full height, she seemed to get back her
dignity all at once, the dignity of despair. "1 lied
to you," she said slowly, "and I meant to. I told
you she was my aunt, and I thought you — wouldn't
have to know. I wanted to keep you from ever find-
204 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
ing out the truth. Now you know, and you know
I lied to you and — and I guess that's all there needs
to be said about it !"
» "No it isn't, either !" He came a step nearer. 'TDo
you suppose I didn't know all along? I knew the
first evening she was in the house. You told me a
lie, and I respected you for it. And I wouldn't ever
have said a word if it hadn't been for to-day. Look
here " He put his hand on her shoulder again,
and this time she did not shake it off. Instead, she
put her own to her face, and he caught them and drew
them down gently. "Fan," he said, "I want to be
a friend to you. I want to • . . help you. Why can't
you trust me?"
"I — do trust you. And you're the first real friend
I ever had, and that's why . . ." She broke off,
biting her lip. "Why didn't you go, when you
knew ?" she asked curiously. "Why did you want to
stay on, in the — ^the sort '*
"Because it wasn't any of my business!" he said.
"It didn't concern me. Good heavens, do you think
I cared? For two pins, I'd have gone in this morning
and told that man "
"He's my father," said Fan quietly.
"I know he is. Unfortunately that doesn't appear
to prevent his being a blackguard."
"It prevents us calling him so."
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 205
She began to laugh bitterly. "Oh, there's humour
in it! My God . . ." She turned to him again.
"You've lived in the house — ^you know what it's like.
You know how we get along together. It's a pretty
sort of family party, isn't it? And the neighbours all
know; they talk it over. It's the standing topic of
scandal for them, and they never get tired of it, and
now you know why I hate them the way I do! I
hate everyone of them ! You know ever3rthing now !
You know why I wouldn't ever go to the Hardings'
house when they asked me. How could I? How
can I ever go amongst decent people, go to their houses
or have them here? I could have made lots of
friends in the village, people that came down here
to stay, if it wasn't for that. But how can I do
She caught one of the low-hung branches in her
hand, stripping off the green, sticky needles nervously,
and pulling them apart. King let her go on talking;
he knew better than to check her.
"It began just after mother died. She used to
come to the house then, but I never knew. I never
thought anything till one evening . . . and then
father sent me away to school, and when I came back
things were the way they are now, and they've been
ever since. I began to hear how the neighbours
2o6 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
talked. They talked fast enough! It didn't matter
to them that I was Tasker's daughter, and it all came
back to me. Jersey's about the meanest place in tfie
world, and God knows it^ and that's why He made
the people just like it. I hated it at first I hated to
go down in the village; to go to the store after the
mail. Now I've got so, I don't care. What's the
good I And then you came down, and I thought
maybe I could keep things so you wouldn't hear. And
I could, if she hadn't come down. She's never
stayed here in the stmimer before. Last year she
stayed at Monterey the whole time. And . . . that
isn't the worst of it. I suppose you know he • • •
"I guessed so."
"It don't take much guessing! Well, she keeps
him from it, in a way. You wouldn't think she
would, but she does. He was . . . like that to-day,
or he'd never have talked to me the way he did. But
he's always better when she's round. He hardly drank
at all, all last winter, when she was down here. She's
got influence over him where I haven't, and she knows
I know it, and that's the pull she has over me. If it
wasn't for that I wouldn't stand half I do. She's got a
good influence over him, and that's the f uimy part. Oh,
it's all funny ! Sometimes I think if God has any sense
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 207
of humour He must have a good great time looking
on at folks!"
She watched the last pine-needle drop to the ground
between her restless fingers, joining the others that
made a criss-cross pattern of green on the dead
"Haven't you any people?" King asked, after a
"Not one. And a lot of good they'd be if I had 1
I guess they'd turn out like everyone else. My
brother went away. I told you he quarrelled with
father. Well, now you know what it was about.
He cared for my mother like I did. He went out
West, and he always said he'd write for me to come
out, when he got settled and I left school ; but I guess
he's forgotten. I don't know that it matters any-
She lifted her eyes, looking at the branches over-
head, a still blue-green against the sky, and her face
was hard. When she lowered them again she said
"Well, what are you going to do? I guess you
won't want to stay on here any more?"
"Because it's . . . different. Oh, you can't."
She could not have defined the difference, but it was
2o8 THE PRICE OE YOUTH
clear in her own mind. So long as the fabric of
her lie had stood between them it was all right; she
could hold to her self-respect. Now it was broken
down, a trampled screen, and everything lay bare
and mean and naked, exposed pitilessly to view like
the dead strewn pine-needles under her feet. There
would be no use pretending any more. She could
keep it up, so long as there was a reason, but now
the reason was gone. They could no longer go on
in the same way, meet on the same ground. He
would feel it too, just as she did, when he came to
think. . . . Their friendship would have to go. It
was the biggest thing she had given up yet, but it
would have to go. God might have let her have this
summer out, but God never let one have the things
one wanted. . . .
She turned, and saw him looking at her.
"Why not?" he said again.
"Why not? Do you think I haven't any pride left!
Do you think I'd want to have you stay — ^that I'd let
you? Not if. . . ."
She had almost said: "Not if I cared for you a
hundred times more than I do!" The words had
been so nearly on the lips that, with the sudden check,
the blood flew hotly to her face. Instinctively she
averted her head, and it was the gesture of an animal
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 209
self-trapped. But it was too late. The meaning of
the pause, if not the words themselves, had flashed
out on the air between them.
There was a silence while she could have counted
the dead needles ticking to the ground, the hundred
tiny breathing sounds in the woods about them.
Something tightened in her throat, crept and tingled
through her body. It was as if a new life woke in
her heart, a new voice spoke to her, the eternal
universal voice of youth, of the living, restless world,
of all that was ugly, all that was beautiful. She,
too. . . .
"Fan," he said.
She did not want to look at him, but she had to,
and when she saw his face it, too, was strange to her,
and all the stmimer's rhythm drew to meaning. He
held out his hands, and she went to him resistingly,
step by step, drawn by the new unspoken command
within her. It was the last breaking of her pride, the
final giving-in of her freedom. So she went till their
hands touched, and with the touch all was suddenly
plain to her. His arms slipped about her and drew
A UGUST deepened into September, and a first
-/a. hint of fall showed in the woods. The sweet-
fern turned to russet, and golden red bloomed every-
where along the roadside. Distances softened into
purple. On still afternoons, borne across miles of
country, one could smell the burning of far-oflf forest
fires. Day after day the shadow of smoke hung like
an autumn haze far out over the sky, and the sun set
in a red solid disk behind the pines.
Fan and King went for long drives over coun-
try roads. Men had beg^n work at the limekilns,
and out of the dark sea of pine woods white columns
of smoke rose here and there straightly on the air.
They passed orchards laden with apples, l3ring
scattered shiftlessly, or raked into heaps under the
trees ; fields where com fodder stood bound in shocks
and big yellow pumpkins dotted the brown, stubbly
earth. Now and again, in low-lying places, swamp
maple burned, a pure isolated flame of scarlet.
Among the young saplings and undergrowth were
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 211
misty tints of delicate pink and emerald, hues rather
of spring than autumn; hints as of new sap stirring
in stems and branches. Only the pines remained the
same, dense and sombre, unchangeable through all
With Fan it was spring; the spring-time of life
and youth. She looked on the country round as one
who has no heed of winter; it reflected for her only
her own unthinking happiness. She found a joy in
the autumn colours, the autumn scents. Common
things held a new and rare pleasure. She flung
herself into life as though she had never lived be-
fore, grudging each hour that was spent, clinging to
each that came, in the supreme reckless selfishness of
happiness. September spilt the summer's gold on
field and roadside, filled the air with wine and song,
and the cadence of it was in her blood. She gave
herself up body and soul to the place and the moment.
Nothing else mattered. Everyday things were
meaningless. She let her whole life slip, not caring
what happened, what might happen. She wanted
nothing but the present. God didn't give things for
long, and He didn't give them twice. She would hold
with glad hands what was hers, travel the road while
she could, not caring where it led. Life was good,
and she was just beginning to find it out
212 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
King was not in any sense the devoted lover. She
didn't want fiim to be. She was content simply to
be witE him, to have him near her. He told her
about his life, his friends, his work in the dty. He
sketched the great newspaper office for her, its stress
and tension, its machine-like impersonal routine. He
described the big room at night, with the noise of the
city's sleeplessness borne in through the opened win-
dows, and the shirt-sleeved men sweating at their
desks under the green-shaded electric lamps ; the babel
of the compositors' room upstairs, the hurrying to
and fro of feet in wide corridors, and the last dogged
rush before the paper went to press ; the final jar and
rumble of the huge machines in the basement. He
told her about the men he worked with, till she felt that
she knew them all intimately, Rossinger and Curtice
and little Harker, who could write the best prose of
anyone on the staflF, and never kept a job for more
than two months. He forgot his diffidence, and talked
to her about his ambitions, his hopes, his failures. He
hated newspaper work; he wanted to get away from
it, to be free, to make a name for himself in the
"Journalism isn't a profession," he said in one of
his least original moments. "It's a living, except to
the few that are mad for it I'm not. I haven't an
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 213
inch of the journalist instinct in me. That's why I
don't get on. I've found it out by degrees. When
I can see my way to something different I shall throw
up the whole deadly business, and thank God for the
"If I were a man," said Fan, "I'd rather be on a
newspaper than an)rthing else. Think of the things
you see "
"The things you see and touch and can't handle
the way you want to. It takes all the best from a
man, and leaves him no further than where he was
when he started. You arn't an individual ; you're just
one little cog in a big machine, and you can hang on
to the machine or drop out."
"You don't like it?"
"I hate it," he said. "I've seen what it's done to
other men ; I know what it's doing to me."
"I think it's great. I think just that feeling — ^£0
know that you belong, that you count, that you're a
living part of something bigger than you could ever
be by yourself "
"I shouldn't have expected that from you," said
"Only that I shouldn't."
She laughed. They were driving down a long
214 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
slope of road, between stretches of rusted sweet-fern,
and she touched the horse up with the whip.
''We don't see things a bit the same, Willis, do
"Are you just beginning to find it out?"
"No. I think I've found it out before— some things.
I shouldn't get along with you if we were just alike.
But I wish I had your chances. I wish I was a man.
No, I don't, either " she added. "I used to, but
I don't think I do any more."
"Don't be rude, little boy. The Lord made your
face disagreeable enough without sneering. Turn
around. Do you know you're getting more freckles
every day? Every lie you tell a freckle comes out;
that's what they used to tell me. Red-headed people
must be bom liars."
"How about you?"
"My freckles all are on my nose. That shows the
narrow limits of my capacity for untruth, compared
with yours. Look, boy ; isn't there going to be a love-
ly sunset 1"
They had reached the top of the slope, and she pulled
the horse in for a moment. Before them was a
stretch of cleared land dotted with pine-stumps,
and further, a ploughed field and a bit of pasture
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 215
yellow with golden-rod. A row of pines, tall and
sparse, stood back against the sky, and behind
them the huge red sun showed as through bars of a
They watched it drop slowly behind the black fringe-
"Isn't September good I" said Fan softly.
The afternoon was nearly over, and she was feeling
sorry, as she always did, that they were nearing home
again. Out in the open air King always seemed to
be nearer to her, to belong to her far more than he
did in the house. He was diflferent; she couldn't ex-
plain, but she always felt it. He was at his best out
A waggon was coming at a snail-pace toward them.
They could make out the black jolting shape of it
through the dusk.
"There's old Jakey Rose," said Fan.
The waggon approached and passed them slowly, the
decrepit roan horse turning out of its own accord.
Jakey, in his indescribable blue jersey, sat hunched on
the front seat.
"Evening, Jakey 1" cried Fan, as the two teams drew
His blue inscrutable eyes, set in his wrinkled face,
2i6 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
seemed to peer out at them malignantly from under the
shadow of the waggon-hood. The sun caught his
chestnut hair and beard and the little gold rings in his
ears. He looked from King to Fan and from Fan
to King, and chuckled^ a low reflective chuckle, like
that of some unspeakably evil bird.
A faint waft of stale fish reached them from the rear
of the waggon.
"I loathe that man," said King, abruptly.
"So do I. Isn't it funny. Poor old Jakey! May-
be, he isn't as bad as he makes himself out."
"Anway, it's an indecency for a man his age to
have chestnut hair. He is an affront to the laws of
"Laws of nature don't affect Jakey any I" Fan said.
She laughed, but somehow this meeting with him, at
the close of their drive, produced an unpleasant im-
pression. He gave her a vague uncomfortable fore-
boding. She had never liked Jakey, but at this mo-
ment she absolutely hated him. His passing, like that
of some unclean thing, seemed to have spoiled the
King looked back a moment later. Jakey was look-
mg back too, twisting round with one hand on the
waggon-seat to peer after them.
They drove round by Mrs. Lyons' house; Fan
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 217
had some early wild asters for her. She took them
indoors while King waited outside. Presently Mrs.
Lyons came out with her, and they stood awhile by
the waggon to chat. She had taken off her apron,
and in her greenish gingham dress she looked more
like some faded old-fashioned flower than ever, as she
stood smiling and nodding.
"We met old Jakey, coming back along the Mor-
ristown road," said Fan. "He looked younger than
ever. Mr. King doesn't cotton to him any more than
"I guess there ain't nobody likes Jakey very much,*'
said Mrs. Lyons, gently. It was the nearest approach
to an unkind speech about anyone that she had ever
After the waggon drove away, she stood in the door-
way, holding her bunch of asters, and looked after
"They don't act just like an engaged couple," she
said to herself, reflectively. "I wish't I knew 1"
" T T come direct," said Mrs. PowelL "WUey seen
1 'em, an' Wiley told the Pearces an' Mrs. Pearcc
told Jakey. One o'clock in the mornin' there they was
outside the Warwick Arms a-laughin' an' a-carryin'
on, an' him goin' in fetchin' her drinks. Jakey said
he couldn't 'a believed it, on'y Mrs. Pearce told him.
An' I think if Tasker don't put his foot down pretty
soon it's time someone else did."
'1 don't believe the half of what Jakey says about
anyone," said Mrs. Hewitt.
"What would he want to be sayin' things about 'em
for that wasn't so?"
"Same reason he tells 'em about everyone else, I
guess. Seems to me when a man's seventy-nine, an'
gets bronchitis every winter regular, he oughter have
something else to think about besides goin' round
pickin' up all the tales he can about other people.
Jakey's got so he don't know when he's tellin' the truth
himself. He's nothin' but an old rattle-box. He
hears s(»nething one place an' he goes an' spits it all
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 219
out at the next. I don't listen to nothin' Jakey says
any more. He'd sell better fish if he kep' his mouth
shut, an' so I told him last time he was round. I
guess I ain't, dependent on Jakey to tell me people's
doin's in Matehocken 1"
"Well, Mis' Pearce told him, an' that's all I go by.
Mis' Pearce don't make things up, if Jakey does.
There they was, she says, outside the hotel, an' Wiley
"What was Wiley doin' there?" Mrs. Hewitt in-
"Mis' Pearce didn't say. I guess he had business
there, or he wouldn't a' been. Anyway, he seen 'em.
He said he'd have known Tasker's team anywheres,
if it hadn't been for her settin' in the waggon. I ain't
one to make scandal, as you know, Mrs. Hewitt, an'
if it had 'a been- any other place but Monterey I
wouldn't have thought so much of it, seein' what Fan
"I must say if it's so— an' I ain't believin' Jakey yet
— ^that Fan did ought to have more sense than to go
drivin' round Monterey at night. It ain't like any-
where else, as you say; I should have thought she'd
have known better, with all her craziness. An' I
should have thought Tasker would have known better'n
to let her."
220 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
"Tasker was up in the city. An' if you ask me,
Tasker don't know the half of what goes on, no more'n
the babe unborn. That girl ain't no good, Mrs. Hewitt,
an' I've always said so, an' now I know. She's just
got around Tasker. I used to be sorry for her, but
now I ain't. She's just puUin' wool over his eyes
'If she can get ahead of him she's the first person
ever did. I wouldn't take odds on no one pullin' wooK
over Tasker's eyes myself. They'd have to get up
mighty early to try it on."
"That's as it may be. An' if you don't believe
Jakey himself, maybe you'll believe what Vannote's
sister-in-law over to Monterey told him. She says
they come by her house that same evenin', an' they
made such a noise they fetched her out of bed, an'
they wanted to know the way to the town. An' she
told 'em, civil as can be, an' she says they was carryin'
on so outside the house, that time o' night, it fair
scandalised her, an' she had to offer to turn the dog
on 'em if they didn't get out of her front garden.
Give her such a turn, she says, an' her alone in the
house ; she ain't got over it yet."
"Seems to me I've heard about Vannote's sister-in-
law before," Mrs. Hewitt mused. "Ain't she the one
there was that talk about with the feller that peddled
watchchains at Monterey racecourse?"
THE PRICE OE YOUTH 221
'The peddler was her own second cousin, Mis'
"I don't see that that makes it any better," returned
Mrs. Hewitt mildly*
"Well, if you won't see what's a-walkin' disgrace
to the neighbourhood, I can't help it. I done my
best," said Mrs. Powell truthfully. "No one can't
say I didn't stand out for Fan as long as I could, but
this last business beats all. I got my eyes open, an'
wild horses won't make me say no diflferent. I knew
the kind she was as far back as when she first come
from school; but I made up my mind I wouldn't talk
no scandal till I had to, an' no one can say fairer. Give
her her chance, I says to everyone that asked me;
give her her chance, an' we'll see. An' I reckon I've
seen enough. Why, I used to let our Minnie go
round with her one time, till I began to put two an
two together, an' then I told her: 'If I see you
havin' anything to say to Fan Tasker, I says, I'll get
your Paw to whip you, big girl or no big girl ; an' if
anyone ask you, I says, you can just tell 'em right out
what I say 1'"
"I didn't think that was on account of Fan," said
Mrs. Hewitt. "I thought it was on account of Tasker
an' . • . the house."
"It was on accoimt of everything. Minnie's a good
222 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
girl, an' I ain't goin' to have her learned no different
from what she learns at home, an' I guess what she
learns at home won't hurt her any. I've brought her
up in a good atmosphere where there ain't no scandal
talked an' none acted."
Mrs. Hewitt thought of Minnie, a plain, ungainly
girl, with all her mother's most aggressive character-
istics sharpened and emphasised, and it was perhaps
as well that her sense of humour had its limitations.
She sighed, picking up the fashion journal Mrs. Powell
had lent her to take home.
"Well, Minnie's a real good girl," she said, "an' I
don't know after all but what you done right."
"I know I done right 1" said Mrs. Powell.
Mrs. Hewitt was honestly opposed, in her own way,
to gossip about anyone. She didn't believe what Mrs.
Powell had told her, but it sank into her mind; and
she thought it couldn't do any harm, since Jakey had
spread the story already over the village, if she were
to talk it over casually, and find out what other people
thought So she mentioned it in a friendly way to
Mrs. Allan, and Mrs. Allan mentioned it to Jinny Still-
well, who had heard it before, and Jinny mentioned it
to someone else.
Five days later Phemy, leaving for her own home
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 223
after supper, stood about for a few minutes awkwardly
in the kitchen, with the constrained air of one waiting
to make an explanation.
"I just wanted to tell you, Fan," she said at last,
"that mother says as she'd rather I didn't come over
here to work any more, if you can make out without
Fan was perhaps not entirely surprised.
"Why, I'm sorry, Phemy," she said. "What's the
matter? Is the work too much for you? You
haven't been sick again, have you ? If the work's too
much you might have found it out sooner and told
Phemy shuffled. Her face went defiantly pink.
"No, it ain't that — not altogether. Only there is
lots of work, an' mother says I ain't strong enough for
it, an' an)rway she'd — she'd rather I wouldn't come any
Fan understood. She bit her lip.
"Very well, Phemy," she said. "You do what you
think best. I shall be very sorry to have you go, be-
cause I liked havinglyou, and I think you liked coming,
but I guess as far as the work goes we can get along
all right without you. I think I've always treated you
pretty well, haven't I ?"
"Yes, it ain't that, Fan. I wanter stay on, on'y
mother, she'd — she don't think I'd oughtcr/'
224 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
"Very well," said Fan again. "Then yon won't
"You left your apron here. Will you send for it,
or take it now ?"
"ni— take it now."
She rolled it up, and escaped precipitately.
At another time Fan would have felt her going
rather more keenly. But just at present nothing mat-
tered to her very much. She said to King the next
morning, with an odd curve at the comers of her
"Phemy isn't coming here to work any more. Her
mother says she doesn't think the place agrees with
"I guess the place can get along right without her,
"I guess it can," said Fan.
FAN called him into the parlour one afternoon.
She had a picture in her hand, a little miniature
set in an old-fashioned frame.
"This was my mother's picture," she sdd. "I
thought maybe you'd like to see it."
The portrait showed a pretty, girlish face, with
brown hair drawn back from a centre parting, a mouth
that curved trustfully and delicate colouring like a wild
rose. King looked from the miniature to Fan, and she
"I'm not like her a bit. I take after dad."
"She must have been very pretty," King said.
"She was when that was taken. It was before she
was married, but it's the only one I have of her. It
used to be in the parlour, and then I took it up to my
room. I don't know whether dad missed it. He's
never asked about it."
"Do you remember her at all ?"
"Oh, yes. I was eleven when she died, you know.
But I don't remember her as so pretty then ; she had
left oflF doing her hair that way. She used to wear it
226 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
straight 1)ack. But I like this. I like to tfainlc of her
the way she used to be."*
She took the picture upstairs again, and lodced it
away in her bureau drawer. When she came down
King was sitting out on the porch, and she joined him.
In front of them the sun made dappled shadows across
the clay yard, where some chickens were scratching
and crooning, ugly half-g^own birds of the summer's
brood, with gawky legs and impertinent eyes. The
leaves of the cherry tree were turning colour in
patches ; high up on its stem showed a white split, tri-
angular in shape, where the dead limb had broken
"Was your mother very young when she married?'
King asked presently.
"She was eighteen. It seems awfully young to me.
She ran away from home. Her people all lived in
Newark, and her father was a minister there. I don't
think she had a very good time at home. She met
dad at a church sociable or scmiething, and they ran
away and got married two months afterwards. Her
father didn't want her to marry him. I like her having
done it, even if ... if she was sorry afterwards,
I was going to say. I know it seems horrid to say that
of one's parents." She coloured a little. "But I've
thought things over sometimes. I think I can under-
stand it, can't you?"
THE PRICE OE YOUTH 227
King thought he could, even though the connection
of Tasker at any period with church sociables was
quaintly incongruous. He had charm now when he
chose. King could imagine, twenty years ago, the
fascination which had drawn the eighteen-year-old
girl — ^pretty, ignorant, impressionable, brought up in
the narrow ways of a ministerial household — ^to throw
in her lot with him. He could see, too, what perhaps
Fan did not, the awakening that must have come as
the glamour of romance wore off and she found her-
self comparatively friendless, cut off from her own
people, the wife of a saloon-keeper in a remote Jersey
village. From what Fan had said of her mother at
rare times he gathered that she and Tasker had not
lived happily at the last, whatever they might have
done in earlier days. He could see the girlish mouth
losing its curves, settling into lines of hardness and
resentment; the prettiness fading; the old ways one
by one forgotten by the mind that had no longer
tact or strength to hold the man she had once loved.
The face of the miniature was not the one to hold its
own for very long with a man of Tasker's nature,
for King had a shrewd suspicion that Tasker, fifteen
years ago, was much the same as now. There had
probably been scenes in the commonplace drama that
Fan knew nothing of, and that he hoped she never
would. He felt glad, for her sake, that she had no
228 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
later picture of her mother than die one in the toqr
''I wonder if mother was like me at aU," she said
now. "I often wish I knew. I guess she wasn't
though. Maybe I'd have been a lot different if she'd
lived." It was like her to add after a moment : 'Tm
glad she didn't. It sounds horrid to say that, but I
don't mean it horridly."
"I think you're right, in some ways."
He was thinking still of the face in the miniature.
"I'm so glad you do," said Fan. "If I'd said fliat
to some people they wouldn't have understood. But
sometimes I feel such lots . . . older than mother
somehow. I often wonder whether, when God puts
people in the world, He plans things out about them
really, or just lets them go ahead the best way they
can. It would make such a lot of difference if one
"Don't you think the best way is just to go
"I don't know. I guess so." She sat with her
chin on her hand, staring at the white gash on the
"Do you know, boy, I made up my mind you
were perfectly horrid that first evening you came
down," she said after a while. "I thought you were
priggish and self-opinionated, and I'd never get on
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 229
with you in the world. I tried to present the worst
side of everything so you wouldn't want to stay
"It was a noble impulse, but it didn't work."
"No, it didn't. That was my ignorance. If I
wanted to be disagreeable to you now I should know
better ways to set about it."
"Do you think I'm going to give it away? I like
to keep things in reserve. They will dawn upon you
by degrees." She yawned in sheer contentment of
the afternoon. "I feel dreadfully sleepy. There's
a basket of peaches in the ice-chest. Don't you want
to go and bring some out?"
He got up and went indoors, whistling. A book
lay face downward on the porch near his chair; she
picked it up, and looked through the pages idly.
Presently she heard steps on the gravel. A young
man was coming round the path from the front of
the house. He had yellow boots and a stiff Panama
hat pushed to the back of his head, showing a curl of
hair plastered knowingly down over his forehead with
obviously studied effect. His whole air suggested a
cheap city veneer, a kind of sophisticated swagger
superimposed upon uncompromisingly rustic material.
He was the type of youth that frequents country-
330 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
town saloons and the corners outside post offices, and
who would appear, but for a certain open-air bearing
which no amount of conscious effort could successfully
disguise, to have strayed from the counter of a third-
rate metropolitan dry-goods store. He had a cigar
gripped between tobacco-stained teeth, and his hands
were thrust into his trousers pockets; he seemed to
propel himself as much by them as by his feet. He
lounged up to the porch, and set one of his yellow
boots prominently on the lower step.
"H'o, Fan V* he said carelessly.
Leaning back in the chair she regarded indifferently
the hat he had not seen fit to remove.
"I wanted to see the old man. Guess he's out, is
"I don't know."
"Mis' Sales said he was."
"Then he probably is," said Fan. "I guess you'd
better come round in the evening, Bert."
"I'd just as lieve wait."
He shifted the cigar between his teeth, staring about
him at the house windows. Then his gaze came back
to Fan again, who appeared to have relapsed into ob-
livion of his presence. He turned his head, and spat
at the honeysuckle vine.
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 231
"Get bade from Monterey all right, th' other
"Mis' Sales told me you fetched home two o'clock
in the morning."
Fan said nothing, but her eyes narrowed a little
"Gk)t lost, didn't you?"
"That's my business."
"You bet your life itisl" He laughed meaningly.
"That's a good one, but I guess it don't go. Not
around here it don't."
"If you want to wait for my father," said Fan in a
level voice, "you had better go round and wait in the
"Thanks. I'm your humble servant, but I guess
I prefer to wait here, seein' it's all the same to you.
Gettin' officious, ain't you?" He leaned forward
with one foot on the porch-step. His face was
flushed with the whiskey he had been drinking, and
the smell of it hung on the air. "I tell you, Fan
Tasker, you don't want to get off none of your airs
on me. They don't cut ice any more, whatever they
might a' done once. I come round here in a friendly
way, an' you treat me as if I was the dirt under your
feet! You're too hell-proud to reckemise me when
we meet in public, an' when I come round here you.
232 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
look at me s'if I was some dirty little wonn tliat
hadn't any business speakin' to you. It ain't fair
''If you don't like my manners you know what yoo
"I come round here to talk friendly, an' this is how
you treat me. I reckon you think you've cottoned on
to a good thing an' nothin' else signifies, but maybe
you'll find out it ain't so good as what you think. I
guess you know what the folks are saying in Mat-
"They can say what they like."
"They're doin' it, all right 1 Maybe Matehocken
people ain't so smart as city people, but they dcm't
keep their eyes in a woolsack, all the same — ^not
when it comes to some things. Oh, it wasn't me
told on you, an' it wasn't me told on your bein' at
Monterey either 1 It was Jakey Rose, if you want
to know. You can ask me how he come to know it,
but he knew it, an' he's spread it all around, too.
So if you want to lay for anyone you can lay for
Fan had not moved, but her figure seemed to
straighten itself involuntarily at his words. But for
this slight tension of the muscles, she might scarcely
have heard him. Her eyes, fixed on him now, held
less a consciousness of his actual presence than a
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 233
vision of something happening a long way off, in which
he was perhaps a factor. Under her slow gaze Ha-
vens shifted uncomfortably, and the colour deepened
in his face.
"You don't believe me? All right. Jakey knows
a few things, but I guess I know a few more, an* it's
up to you whether they go any further. I've always
stood your friend. Fan, an' you can't say I ain't An*
I'm willin' to stay friendly still. Some fellers wouldn't
a' put up with the half I have oflf of you. But I'm
a good sort, I am, so long as folks treat me right.
"I guess you had your answer a year ago, Bert
The restrained drawl in her voice might have been
Tasker's own. An ugly light glinted suddenly in
"Yes, I have, an' I ain't forgotten it — ^not by a long
chalk 1 An' I guess you won't forget it either, by the
time I get through. If it comes to tellin' things I
guess I know a few little tales that'd make that city
feller o' yours sit up all right. Maybe he's soft enough
to believe anything you tell him. I suppose he thinks
he's the only chap you ever got lost in the woods with.
It'll sound pretty when he gets to hear of last sumr
mer, won't it? Maybe you'll find he ain't quite so
simple as what he looks.''
234 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
He had raised his voice; Fan knew how, through
the screen-door behind her, every word must carry
on the afternoon quiet of the house. Nemesis some-
times forsakes the dignity of ancient conception for
quaint forms. In this case, it took the form of a
commonplace young man in yellow boots. If the
summer world had rocked under her fett. Fan would
perhaps have looked as rigidly nonchalant as she did
"Is that all you want to say?**
"No, it ain't I'm giving you one more chance, Fan.
If I wasn't the kinder feller I am I wouldn't do it.
I'm willin' to stand by you, an' I ain't askin' nothin' for
it What's fair to one's fair to another, I reckon.
You give me a kiss for old times and I'll keep my
"When you've finished talking, perhaps you will get
off the porch."
"Maybe I will, an' maybe I won't I ain't just
Fan had heard the screen door open and close quietly
behind her, but she never turned; only her fingers
gripped the book she was holding. King barely gave
time for an answer. He simply threw one look at
Havens, then stepped forward, catching him by
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 235
the collar, and twisted him backward oflf the
edge of the step. The trick had knack in it; it
took Havens at an unbalanced moment and sent him
one way and his shiny Panama another. He landed
by a contortion on his feet, glaring at King, who stood
above him on the porch-step he had so unwamingly
"Another time perhaps you will have the intelligence
to do what you're told when you're told."
"Who the hell are you?"
Havens began to bluster in the semi-speechlessness
of rage, his face an angry scarlet.
"Now pick up your hat," said King in the same quiet
voice, "and clear out of here."
"I won't either! Not for you! Come down off
that porch an' "
King stood with his arms folded.
"I don't intend to dirty my hands with you or
anyone like you. But if you put a foot on this step,
or attempt to address another word to Miss Tasker,
I'll come down, and I'll give you the soundest thrashing
you ever had in your life. Now get out 1"
Fan had risen, white to the lips. She had never
seen King angry before. The very quietness of his
manner foreboded violence, and she had a swift wom-
an's terror lest the affair would come to blows. She
236 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
knew Havens' strength, and she knew who would get
the worst of it She had no experience till then of
the curious weight force of will can have against
physical strength, the instructive dominance of the
educated man over the uneducated. She caught her
breath, waiting for what seemed to her the inevitable.
King knew. He had dealt with this kind of man
once before. The chances were about even, but they
came out right. Havens blustered for a moment or
two. Then he picked up his hat, and moved oflF sul-
lenly down the path, cursing as he went.
King watched him out of sight round the comer of
the house. Then he turned to Fan.
She was standing, pale still, her fingers gripping the
window-ledge behind her. He looked at her, and
under his look the colour came back slowly to her face,
deepening to a flush.
"That was the man who was outside the hotel at
Monterey, wasn't it?" he said at last.
The book had dropped to the floor at her feet, and
she bent down and picked it up with unsteady fin-
"It's Bert Havens," she said. "He wanted me to
. . . marry him last year, and I wouldn't, and I
suppose that's why he chose to make himself ugly."
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 237
His gaze fell on a lessened trail of the honey-
suckle, and he straightened it mechanically against
"I've wanted to ask you ^" he said deliberately,
*'was it true that you knew the road that evening all
"No, it wasn't." He glanced at her swiftly. "It's
true that I knew it part of the way . . . when I
told you I didn't. I took a turning I didn't know
because we were having a good time and I didn't want
lo get home so soon. And then I did get lost, and I
didn't know the way till we got out on the Monterey
road, and ^"
"I see," he said again.
She looked at him with guilty eyes. She had not
heard just that tone in his voice before.
"Maybe it wasn't a — ^nice thing to do, but it . . .
didn't matter, did it? I didn't think it mattered. I
just thought ... we were having a good time,
and . • ."
**Oh, no," said King. "No, it didn't matter."
He turned from her, and went slowly mto the
COMING back one morning by the short cut
from the village, where she had been to settle
the month's household accounts, Mrs. Hewitt overtook
King. He had his wheel with him, but he was not
riding it, and it struck her, even before she recog-
nised his familiar grey suit, and the bend of his head,
that no one but the eccentric boarder at Tasker's would
be walking, on a hot September morning, pushing a
bicycle with just that absentminded air of forgetting
that it was a bicycle. She hastened her steps and
came abreast of him just at the termination of the
stone side-walk, by the new yellow meeting-house. He
was walking slowly, his eyes bent on the grotmd,
and she called his name twice before he turned
round. ', . .
"Good morning, Mr. Kingl I called you twice,
an' I guess you was day-dreaming! I've just been
down to the village. It was only yesterday I- was
sayin' I wondered what had happened to you, we
ain't seen you for so long. It must be three weeks
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 239
since you was round at the house last. I was
beginning to wonder whether you were offended with
She said it with the good-humoured laugh of one
who knows contradiction to be unnecessary. She was
out of breath from hastening, and she let him take
the basket from her and sling it on the handle-bar of
"My, but you're looking well 1" she said as they fell
into step along the footpath. "I was sayin' to Jim
the last time you were by the house that you weren't
the same feller that come down here three months ago.
I wouldn't have believed three months could have
made that difference in anyone. I remember the first
night you came down you looked as if you had one
toe in the next world, and didn't know whether you
was ready to pull it back or go along after it. I guess
there ain't much question about how Jersey suits
you 1 I was just thinkin' ; it don't seem three months
does it? The summer's gone dreadful quick. I
suppose you'll have to be thinking of getting back to
the city Uefore long."
"In a week or so, I guess." He turned the bicycle
aside, stepping after it to avoid a tuft of grass.
"Well, you've had a good holiday anyway/'
240 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
He answered in an abstracted way, and Mrs.
Hewitt glanced at him shrewdly. Despite the physical
improvement on which she laid such stress, the young
man's face looked to her tired and worried. He
had very much the air of a man who has something
on his mind, and long practise in putting two and
two together to make seven helped her to an easy con-
clusion as to what it was. Reading the turn of his
head, the restless trick of his hand in his pocket, she
knew that he was deciding, against a characteristic
reserve, whether he would consult her or whether he
"It's a nice morning," she remarked, gazing about
her. "I saw Fan Tasker drivin' by in the buggy
just now. She was goin' over the river to Cedars-
"She's lookin' real well. But then she always does.
I guess Fan never knew what it was to have a day's
illness in her life. It seems so ftmny how quick folks
grow up. I remember her when she was a little thing
an' wore sun-bonnets, an' she used to play horses up
an' down the road with Tom an' Joey. It just seems
"I suppose so."
Mrs. Hewitt waited.
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 241
King withdrew his hand from his pocket, and looked
at it, and put it back again.
"Mrs. Hewitt," he said, "I want to ask you some-
thing, and I . . . don't just know how. Maybe
you'll think it's a pretty queer question anyWay, but I
wouldn't say it to anyone in the village but you. I
want to know ... the truth about Fan."
He finished abruptly, as though he wanted to get
the words oflf his mind before he should recall them.
Mrs. Hewitt looked gravely across the vacant building-
lot, where some children were playing seesaw with an
old plank laid across two wooden boxes.
"I guess I know what you mean, Mr. King," she
said. "You've been hearing the way some people talk
"Yes, I have, and — it doesn't seem to me it can be
true, and I want to know. Of course, I haven't known
Fan very long, but I've come to know her . . .
pretty well, in the time, and it doesn't seem to
me she's that sort of girl. I know she isn't, only —
I've heard things," he went on steadily, looking at the
swinging basket on the handlebar, "and I don't
want to believe them, and it makes it awfully hard
for me to know what's truth and what isn't. I know
it sounds pretty mean to be talking this way at all, to
anyone, but I know you like Fan, an' I don't think
242 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
you'd . . . believe things against her just because
people said them any more than I would. Perhaps
you wonder why I should say this at all, but — ^well, I
guess you know I like her."
"Yes," said Mrs. Hewitt. She wondered whether
this frank young man imagined for an instant he was
telling her news. . .
"I like her," he went on, "and I hate to hear things
said against her, and I hate not to be able to contradict
them when they are said."
Mrs. Hewitt sighed. It was really a sincere sigh.
She was a scrupulous woman, and she had just now
the consciousness of being placed in an uncomfortable
and possibly awkward position, yet behind her re-
luctance lurked some enjoyment of a chance which
would give her all the pleasure of gossip with none
of its reproach. She relaxed instinctively the usual
briskness of her walk, looking straight ahead with re-
"I don't think it's queer, Mr. King,** she began;
"and in a way I'm real glad you've felt like sayin'
what you did. It's worried me this long time past,
seein' you're such good friends with Fan, that you
shouldn't know the rights of what's said, an' I think
you ought to. You've been down here so long you
am't just like a stranger, an* I think it's only right
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 243
you should know both sides of everything so you
can make up your mind what to believe an' what not
to. Tve known Fan a long while, an' I've always
liked her, an' I've stood up for her lots of times when
other folks hasn't. It don't take much to make talk
in Matehocken, an' that's a fact, an' I guess what with
one account an' another it don't do to credit too much
of anything. I've always said myself that I didn't
believe there's half the harm in Fan folks say there
is, an' I always will say so; but I do know this, Mr.
King, that's she's awful foolish an' awful headstrong,
an' she does real cra2y things sometimes without
stoppin' to think what people are likely to say. I
think it's a thousand pities myself her father ever had
her back here after she left school. She's a nice girl,
an' there's the makin's of a real good woman in her
if she was taken the right way. But she's just been
let to run wild ever since Mrs. Tasker died, an' I guess
that ain't the best trainin' for any girl. I suppose you
know the sort her father is?"
"I know that he's an out-and-out scoundrel," said
King quietly, "but I don't see why that should have
anything to do with her."
"Of course it hasn't, in a way, and then in a way it
has. I always blame the whole of Fan's foolishness
on Tasker an' on no one else. If he was a different
244 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
sort of man heM have brought her up different, an'
diere wouldn't have been none of this fuss. I can't
understand it in a way» because I know he thinks a
lot of Fan, an' he's real fond of her. He paid an
awful lot for her schoolin'. You'd think, being the
sort of man he is, he'd have some sense about his
daughter anyway, but he don't seem to. He don't
seem to realise, or if he does he don't care. He's
so queer. I don't make Tasker out a bit. He's
awful strict some ways. He's never let her set foot
inside the bar of an evenin', and he never will, an'
yet he don't seem to care what sort of crazy things she
"But, Mrs. Hewitt— you don't believe them?"
"No, I don't, Mr. King. But Fan does do awful
reckless things, an' when folks want to talk it's easy
enough to tack a meanin' on to everything. Some-
times I think she does things just to set people
talkin*, an* that's the pity of it. An' she's the sort
of girl you can't say nothin' to; she's Tasker's
daughter down to her boot-soles. I tried it once,
because I liked her mother an' I like her, an' I felt
sorry for her, an* she ain't forgiven me for it yet. It
was last fall, an* there was some soldiers stayin*
across the river here in autumn camp, an* she got
talkin* with one of 'em one night along the road, an*
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 24S
she gave him a lift in the buggy ; an' Jakey Rose saw
'em, an' of course it was all over Matehocken the
next day. Jakey's always had a grudge against Fan.
An* I spoke to her then. I spoke real nice, but she
got mad right away. She put her back up, an' she
said, If my father doesn't criticise my actions, Mrs.
Hewitt, I really don't see that you need. And if
there was a few broader-minded people in Mate-
hocken,' she said, *maybe I wouldn't be thrown
upon strangers for companionship.' So that was all
the good I done. They did say she used to meet
him afterwards, but I never believed it. They get an
awful queer lot down in the camps sometimes, an'
I know Tasker wouldn't ever have allowed that.
But it does show you how reckless she is. I don't
think she knows half the times how crazy she does
"But she isn't a child," said King vaguely.
"No, she isn't, an' that's what makes it so queer.
She is real childish some ways. One time I thought
she never would grow up, but she's seemed to this
last year, an' I've been hopin' she'd grow out of some
of her tomboy ways." She was silent a moment.
"I suppose you heard something about last stmimer,
"No," said King. He was thinking that he would
rather not hear anything more just at present.
246 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
''I thought maybe you had, the way you spc^e, or
I wouldn't have brought it up. But as we are on to
it, I think Td ought to tell you that there was a lot
of talk about Fan last summer. I never heard all
the rights of it myself, an' I never asked. But I fed
you ought to know, because you're bound to hear of
it some time, an' then maybe you'd rather I'd told
you right out. There was an artist stayin' down here
at the hotel, boardin' with 'em like you are; I don't
know whether Fan spoke to you about him, maybe.
He was a lot older than Fan, an' he took a fancy
to her, an' they did used to be about a lot together,
an' folks got to talkin'. I don't think myself there
was anything in it at all, except that she liked bein
with him an' she liked hearin' him talk. He was
real clever, an' he'd travelled a lot, but I don't think
from what I've heard he was a very nice man. He
was one of these freethinkers, an' he had some
awful queer notions. An* I do think he did Fan
a lot of harm without knowin' it. He was an odd
sort of man, an' nobody round here had much to do
with him, but I know they said he was an atheist, an'
he had awful queer ideas about art an' nature an' all
that kinder rubbish. An' Fan used to go round with
him a lot, an' I guess he did influence her some.
They went for drives an' things, an' she used to go
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 247
out with him when he was sketchin', and people did
say she used to — ^pose for him, but I don't believe
that for a moment. Fan's reckless, but I don't think
she's ever been worse'n reckless. But, anyway, things
did have an awful ugly sound, an' it's pretty hard to
say where Fan's foolishness would carry her when it
come to takin' up with other people's ideas. Anyway,
he got her talked about, an' I blame him for the
whole of it, for he was a lot older than Fan, an' he'd
ought to have known how things would get round.
"I hate to drag this up, Mr. King, an' I wouldn't
have told you, only I guess you'll be bound to hear
about it an' you'd better know. I don't attach
any importance to it myself except just what I've
told you. It was Jakey Rose first got the tale about,
an' I guess you know how much to believe of any-
thing Jakey says. Her father used to spend a lot of
his time over to Monterey last siunmer, when the
races was on, an' I guess he never really heard all
folks said or he'd have been stricter with hen Now
I've told you this, Mr. King, because I've felt I'd
ought to, but I don't want you to think any more of
it than I do."
They had reached the gate of Mrs. Hewitt's house
and she turned to take the basket from him. King
gave it up to her mechanically.
248 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
"You don't bdievc it?" he said.
Mrs. Hewitt paused a moment, uncomfortably,
meeting his troubled, straightforward gaze. With
all her well-meaning she had yet to learn that
scrupulousness may become a vice; that there are
occasions when a whole lie may do less barm than
a half truth. She had the short-sighted vision of all
those who try to do good upon the lines of judg-
"No, I don't, Mr. Kmg," she said at last "An'
if I had I shouldn't have told you all this. But it's
awful hard to say. Fan's a queer girl. I don't
think she'd do wrong knowin' it was wrong. But
she is iwful foolish, an' there's no good sayin' she
"I know she is reckless.'* He drew his palm
slowly along the bright handlebar, looking down.
Then he lifted his eyes to her face again.
"Mrs. Hewitt, it would mean a great deal tome
if you could tell me it wasn't true."
"I've told you all I know, so far as truth goes, an'
I've told you what I thought, an* I guess I can't do
no more. I've always liked Fan an' I've tried to be
a friend to her, as much as she's let me. I've wished
sometimes it could a' been more."
"I know you have, and — ^she needs it, and I've
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 249
wished so often she did get along with you better.
It's seemed to me such a pity "
"Well, I guess Fan knows her own mind," said
Mrs. Hewitt, not unkindly. "An' there ain't no good
tryin' to drive her. She's her father for that all over.
Won't you come in a while, Mr. King?"
"I guess not, thanks." He took hold of the bi-
cycle to move it to the kerb, and held out his hand
"I know you're Fan's friend," he said. "And I'm
. . • very grateful to you for saying what you have,
and • • •
He did not finish the sentence, but turned after
a moment, and moved away. If Mrs. Hewitt had
a momentary qualm, watching the young man as he
mounted the bicycle and rode slowly oif down the
tree-shaded street, it vanished by the time she had
reached the house and deposited her parcels on the
kitchen table. There was left her then only the
comfortable righteousness of one who has tried to do
her duty to her neighbour according to her own
standards, and admirably succeeded.
DINNER was waiting by the time he got back
to the house.
"You're late, boy/' Fan said to him. "Where
have you been?"
"Down to the village/'
He hung his cap up behind the door and sat down.
It was Mrs. Coble's cleaning day, and the smell
of soapsuds, interpenetrated by occasional bursts of
religious fervour, reached them through the half-
opened kitchen door. King was silent through the
meal. Fan, her intuition quickened always where
he was concerned, read through his restless pre-
occupation, and knew the cause of it. The meshes
she had spun in heedless hours were beginning to
close round her own feet She joked obstinately,
conscious how his own mood threw her. own forced
gaiety into uncomfortable relief. When they rose
he paused a moment, his hand on the back of the
"Are you busy this afternoon?" he said. "Lcfs
go for a walk up the road a bit."
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 251
She looked at him, understanding, and the comers
of her mouth straightened.
"Very well. I'll be ready in a few minutes."
She lingered a while, giving unnecessary directions
to Mrs. Goble, with an impulse, foreign to her, of
gaining time. When she came out at last King wa3
waiting on the porch.
"Are you ready?" she said.
They walked up the road side by side, keeping to
the narrow footpath under the trees. The huckle-
berry bushes were turning colour and dropping their
leaves, and the scent of sweet-fern was strong on the
dry September air. Down the stretch of empty
road hung a smoky haze of autumn. King recog-
nised her manner dimly as being in some measure a
response to his own. There was an aloofness that
told him she understood all he was going to say,
and was merely waiting till he should choose to say
it. They turned the bend, and left the house out of
sight among the sheltering pine woods.
"I guess you know what I want to talk about," he
said at last.
"I guess I do."
It was scarcely a comfortable beginning. She
stooped as she walked and broke a spray from one
of the bushes. "I saw you talking to Mrs. Hewitt
this morning. I came up the road behind you."
252 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
''I met ber coming back from the village."
His eyes fixed themselves on the little branch she
was holding. She stripped the leaves off one by one
and then threw it away.
"I suppose she had been enlightening you on a few
little matters. Hadn't you better begin ?"
"Fan," he said, "you're making it frightfully hard
"How? I don't think I am. I thought I was
helping you out."
"You know what I want to say, and you know
how I hate to say it. But I've got to. Fan, I want
you to tell me the truth about last summer."
"Haven't you heard it already from Mrs. Hewitt?"
"I'm not judging by what Mrs. Hewitt says, or any-
one else. I want the truth from you yourself."
"Did you . . . care for him ?"
He saw the quick instinctive bend of her head.
This was not just what she had expected.
"Yes," she said, "I did, but — it wasn't in the way
you mean." She paused a moment, then went on
steadily. "I liked him. He was the first friend I
ever had, and I liked him because he was dever
and . . . broad-minded, and he was different fn»n
anyone else I ever met He was the first perscm I
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 253
ever knew who . . . saw things the way I'd always
wanted to see them. He'd been everywhere, and
seen things and places and people, and I liked to
hear him talk. Maybe he wasn't religious or any-
thing of that kind, but I don't care what anyone
round here says of him; I liked him, and — ^he was a
good man, I didn't know very much about things
in those days, but I knew enough to know that.
And religion isn't everything, Willis." She was
looking straight ahead earnestly up the road.
"Everyone hasn't got it. I never had. And he
made me see that it wasn't the main thing; that it
didn't matter, if one went on right. I suppose you
think it's funny that I thought so much of him as I
did. But you've never been in my place. You've
never lived down here, year in and year out, without
a soul you cared to speak to. You don't know what
it's like; what it meant to me to have someone to
talk to once, someone fresh, who wasn't like the
people round here, and who hadn't prejudices. And
I hadn't met you then, Willis. He was the first
outside person that ever came into my life. Oh,
can't you see it, boy! Can't you see why I liked
him, what he meant to me, what he did for me? If
it hadn't been for him I don't know how I should
have got through the summer; I should just gone
on and drifted and stayed in one groove. You can't
254 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
judge, you haven't any right to— nobody has— till
they've tried it; till they've lived the life I have, and
put up with the things I have.
"He took me out of myself. He was a clever man,
and he's a great deal older than me, and he'd travelled
and seen things, and I liked to hear him talk. And
it wasn't only talking either. I liked to be with
him. He was restful. I used to go out and sit with
him and watch him paint, and sometimes vfe'd never
say a word for hours together. I suppose people
thought because I went round with him a lot we
were always talking, but we wem't Sometimes I've
been for drives with him, and we've neither of us
opened our mouth the whole way. He was just a
companion to me, and he ... he wasn't ever any-
"But, Fan "
"Oh, I know what people say!" she went on. "I
know how they talked, but it wasn't true. He
wasn't that kind of man. If you'd met him you'd
"And you never cared for him — ^you can tell me
honestly you never did?"
They had reached a place where the road branched,
and she stood still, facing him.
"Never — ^not as you mean. I thought I did once,
but I know now I didn't Do you think I'd stand
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 255
h^re and tell you if it wasn't true? I never cared
for anyone till I met you, and you know it. Do you
think I've ever spoken to any man as I speak to
you? — do you think I've ever let a man . . . kiss
me before 1 I never loved anybody in my life but
you. I never knew what it meant. Do you think
I'd stand here and tell you lies — ^you? Oh, boy,
can't you believe me?"
"I do believe you . . . but, Fan, you make it so hard."
"How?'^ she demanded. "Have I ever told you a
lie in my life? I told you one lie once, and you know
what it was, and you know why I did it. Have I
ever told you any other? I told you that because
I . , . cared for you then, though I didn't know it.
I couldn't let you go, and I told a lie to keep you,
and I've never told you another and I never will."
"But, Fan, it wasn't all! If it was it wouldn't
trouble me. You've lied to me all along. You lied
about Monterey that time. You told me you didn't
know who that man was there, and you did. You
told me you didn't know the road — ^you let us go on
and you knew all the time "
"Do you call those lies? Because I don't. I call
a thing a lie when it really matters — ^when it affects
can't you see — ^you must have a moral
256 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
''No» I don't see, and I never will; I see tbe
difference between a deliberate lie and a thing that
doesn't affect anyone,"
"A lie is a lie, Fan."
'"You might as well say I told you lies the first
day I met you. So I did — if you call it so."
"That was different."
"How? When I tell you. the truth you don't
believe me. And I may have lied to other people,
but I don't lie to you . . . only once I did. Do you
think I wouldn't believe every word you said to me,
if you told me it was truth ? You can't care for me
or you would believe mel"
"I do care. Fan, and you know it. It's because I
care so much "
"I beg your pardon. I don't think you do. You
go and listen to everything anyone says, and you'd
sooner believe them than me, just because I told you
a lie once and owned up to it You go and talk me
over with a woman like Mrs. Hewitt ^"
"Mrs. Hewitt likes you. Fan."
"Yes, I know how much she likes me! Hasn't
she tried to make mischief — ^to get you away from
here ever since you came ? Now I hope she's satis-
fied. She'd like to have me go to church and all that
maybe. But when has she ever put out a hand to
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 257
help me— ever tried to say a good word for me — ^she
or anyone else round here?"
"She would if you'd let her."
"Let her! If I'd go down on my knees to her, I
suppose ! No thank you. I'd rather go my own way
and be damned."
"Fan, can't you see how you make it worse for
yourself? You won't let people help you. You
won't listen to what's said. You set yourself against
everyone, and you won't even give them a chance to
believe you. You know how much I care for you, and
you make it hard even for me !"
"Make it hard for you to believe me? You don't
care, boy. If you cared for me a tenth as much
as I care for you you'd know I was telling you the
truth when I said I was. I never thought I would speak
to any man in my life as I've spoken to you. I'd
believe anything you said, I'd do anything you told
me, if you dragged me down to hell with you. Do
you suppose I weigh this and consider that where
you're concerned? Do you suppose I'd listen to
what anyone in the world said about you? You
don't, love me. You'd rather go by other people's
opinion of me than your own. Now I've told you
the truth, and you can go. I'd let you go if it killed
me, sooner than keep you, knowing that you feel the
2S8 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
way you do about mel Only^-I wish to God Fd
never met you T
They had turned mechanically, and the hotel came
into sight again beyond the bend of the road.
"Is there anything else?" she said. "Is there any-
thing more you'd like me to tell you lies about?"
"Yes, there is." • He stopped short "I don't know
that it matters. They said you used to pose for him.
Is it true?"
Fan looked at him, and drew herself up.
"Fm not going to insult you or myself by answer-
ing. As you say, it doesn't matter. Now will you go
She had stepped back from the path, and stood
waiting for him to pass her. King hesitated a
"I was down at the Hardings' cottage this morn-
ing. They want me to stay and spend the last two
weeks with them. Perhaps I had better go."
"I think it would be a great deal better," she said
He waited still. "Would you rather I went? You
know what it means."
"I think you had better go," she sjud again, with-
out looking at him. "You had much better." Then
as he did not move she stepped past hini, and walked
on by herself to the house.
FAN sat on the back doorstep, her chin in her
hands, watching some chickens that quarrelled
desultorily over a decayed tomato among the
trodden vines. There was one half-grown cockerel,
a hideous bluish bird with a scraggy neck, that
fought all the others off, and she fixed her eyes on
him with a mechanical, aversive interest. She had
on a faded blue wrapper, discarded a year ago, and
stockingless feet were thrust into slippers, worn
down at the sides and with rusted threads showing
the track of ancient beadwork. She had drawn
her knees up to her chin in an attitude of listless
indifference, and her gaze, turned on the disput-
ing fowls, seemed to follow their movements with
the mere physical attention one gives to objects near
at hand when the mind is distant.
In the kitchen behind her prevailed a general
litter of things left to themselves, a hopeless accumu-
lated muddle of neglect. Mrs. Sales came into
the room presently; she could hear her creaking
d6o THE PRICE OF YOUTH
"Where's a cup, Fan? Ain't there none clean?"
"I don't know."
Mrs. Sales came to the doorway and lounged
against it, looking down at her.
"I just come down to see if I couldn't get a
cup of coflfee. Seems to me, it'd do my head good
if I could have some. But there ain't a clean cup
in the place. An' the stove ain't very hot. You
might have kep* the fire in, seein' you're down
here doin' nothing!"
Fan turned round. "Where's my father?"
"Gone to Ashury."
"Did he drive?"
She nodded, yawning. "I'd have gone along on'y
I thought it was goin' to rain. It is, too. So I
thought I wouldn't deprive you of the pleasure of my
company for half a day — seein' how much you ap-
Fan transferred her attention to the chickens
"You needn't think I'm so dead stuck on stayb'
here with no one to open my mouth to, for I ain't!
What's in the house for dinner?"
"I don't know."
"Don't care either! I'd have stayed in bed if I'd
known there wasn't no fire. You might have seen to
THE PRICE OE YOUTH 261
it, but you never do think of anyone but yourself.
I'm going to put some more wood on. Where is
"In the wood-box."
"You don't care how bad anyone feels so long as
it ain't you, do you ?"
"Maybe you will some day. Maybe you'll think
then it might be worth while of people to make
themselves pleasant. I wonder if the day'U ever
come, Fan," she went on, "when you want folks to
do things for you an' they won't, an* speak a decent
word to you, an' they won't. I guess when it does
you won't think so much about pride, an' you won't
be so ready to condemn folks for things without you
know whether it's their own fault or not, an' you'll
think a little less about right'n wrong an' a little
more about kindness. Maybe you'll find there ain't
such an almighty difference between good people an'
bad people, when it comes to the pinch, an' you'll
feel differently. An' you'll care a little more about
what other people suffer when you come to suffer
"Maybe I shall," said Fan stonily.
She stood up, shivering a little, and turned to go
into the house. Mrs. Sales had found a teacup, and
was rinsing it out under the sink.
262 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
"Will you have some coflfee if I make it?"
"I don't believe you ate no breakfast,** said Mrs.
Sales, regarding her curiously.
"That doesn't matter to you."
She went up to her room and pulled off her wrap-
per, looking into the little shallow mirror on the
bureau. Her face had never been pretty, but it had
lost now whatever attractiveness the will to be
pretty had once wrought in it; her eyes were tired
and lustreless, and her very skin had lost its clear-
ness. She tidied her hair a little and put on a
blouse and skirt, doing everything with the same
listless attention. When she went down again she
encountered Mrs. Sales on the staircase. She was
carrying a tumbler with milk in it; ice tinkled
against the glass as she mounted from step to step,
her draperies trailing untidily behind, the faint waft
of violets preceding her up the staircase. She stood
aside to let Fan pass.
"There's cold meat," she said, "an' com. I just
looked. I should think you might put the com on to
boil if you've got nothing else to do.*'
Fan turned at the foot of the stairs.
"You can put it on yourself if you want it. I'm
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 265
"You're damned sociable !" said Mrs. Sales.
Fan walked along the road to the Martins' cottage.
She had not heard anything of Phemy for some days,
and with a sudden inclination to companionship it
struck her she would go round and see how the girl
was. In the air was the chill presage of rain; ground
and foliage looked alike colourless, and the sky hung
low and woolly over the dull, level pines.
She passed through the little gorgeous front
garden. Blossoming plants in tin cans were ranged
on a wooden stand on the porch, and one of them, a
pink sugar-like begonia, caught her eye as she
knocked. There was no answer, and after a moment
she pushed the door open and went through to the
In the small, close room, which smelled of a stren-
uous wash-day, Phemy sat at the table, her arms
folded upon it and her face buried. The dull light
coming through the screen of geranium plants on the
windowsill beside her, rested on her yellow crouched
head. When she looked up Fan could see that she
had been crying. Her mother moved about heavily,
hanging wet towels on a line across the room.
Neither took notice of Fan till she paused inside the
"I came to see how Phemy was. Mrs. Goble told
mc she wasn't very well."
264 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
Mrs. Martin turned a red, antagonistic face to her.
"Oh, you did ! I take it real kind of you to come
an' see how Phemy is."
Fan looked from one to the other.
"What's the matter?"
"What's the matter? You come here an' you ask
what's the matter, as if you didn't know! There's
Phemy. Look at her !" She raised her voice, and the
yellow head flinched miserably. "Come here and
look at her, if that's what you came for. I wonder
you have the face to show yourself in the house!"
Fan flushed angrily.
"Mrs. Martin, what do you mean by speaking to me
"I know what I mean, an' you know what I mean,
that's brought all the trouble on her. Oh, you
needn't stand there pretendin' with your fine-lady
airs." She took a fresh towel from the wash-tub
and stood wringing it out with a grim stolid energy.
"Phemy was a good enough girl till she went to your
house, Fan Tasker, an' if I'd known all I do now I'd
have seen her dead before I ever let her go. Maybe
you think I don't know who I've got to thank for
Fan looked at the g^rl, cowering in the wooden diair,
and something clutched at her heart
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 265
"I . . . don't know what you mean," she faltered.
Mrs. Martin wheeled round on her. "No, you don't
know what I mean. Ask Phemy. She's told me
enough about the way you've talked to her and the
way you've led her on. You done your best to ruin
her, an' now you see your work, an' so sure as there's
a God in heaven. Fan Tasker, He'll punish you for't,
an' I pray He'll punish you as you deserve."
Fan listened to her in bewilderment. For a
moment the little homely kitchen, with its framed
chromos and shiny stove, and Mrs. Martin's towering
form in the middle, seemed to whirl about her, as
in the dance of some hideous nightmare. She had
a horribk second of wondering whether she were
dreaming^ She put her hand instinctively against
the door-frame to steady herself.
"Mrs. Martin," she said, "listen to me. I know
nothing of what you are talking about — ^nothing ! As
for Phemy coming to our house, I asked her out of
kindness, as you know. I liked having her, and I
thought it would be nice for her to have something
to do, and you were glad enough to let her come. I
tried my best to treat her well, and "
"Yes, an' I curse the day I was ever fool enough
to let her go for your coaxin'l You thought you'd
give her a nice time, didn't you? You thought she
266 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
was dull at home an' maybe you could lively her up a
bit. I've heard all about it. I guess now Phemy's
seen you ain't quite the friend you laid yourself out to
be. Phemy was brought up decent under a decent
roof, an' she never knew no wickedness till she
crossed your doorstep. You learned her all she
knows, an' you've learned her well. She was a good,
God-fearin' girl, an' if she'd never gone with you
she'd have been a good girl now."
Fan turned despairingly to the girl.
"Phemy, I ask you to speak the truth, straight
out. Did I know anything of this at all?"
"Oh, you can ''
"I am not speaking to you, Mrs. Martin; I'm
speaking to Phemy. Don't sit there looking scared.
Are you afraid to open your mouth and tell the
truth? Now, have I ever led you to do anything
you'd be ashamed to tell of — ^have I ever led you
into anything against your will? Have I ever spoken
a word to you, at any time that you wouldn't have
repeated to your mother or to anyone else — ^that you
wouldn't repeat here before the two of us? Answer
"I . . . don't know ..." said Phemy.
She cringed, her fingers gripping the edge of the
chair. Something in her attitude brought back to
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 267
Fan the night of the storm, the same small terrified
figure, in dripping muslin, crouched in the lighted
bar. Other scenes returned to her, too; vague
memories that fell now into the hard perspective of
daylight; the morning she had found Phemy in the
kitchen, odd moments, chance words, that flashed
now for the first time into meaning. What a blind
fool she had been! The same furtive appeal, the
hopeless unspoken fear, was in Phemy's blue, tear-
stained eyes now as she met them, and this time Fan
"Phemy," she said gently. "I'm not asking you to
say anything against your will. I'm only asking
you to speak the truth. Have I known anything
about this at all ? — speak honestly !"
"I . . . don't know. I — ^guess so."
"Phemy, how can you say it ?"
Phemy, a miserable little Judas on the chair,
crouched further under her look.
"I . • . guessed you knew all along. I "
"You leave her alone, an' no bullyin'! What
Phemy's told she's told to me, her own mother, an'
that's enough. I know who's to blame. You've put
ideas into her head "
"Wasn't she goin' steady with Willie Pearce, before
268 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
all this come along? An* didn't you used to talk to
her an' tell her you thought it was an awful pity for
a girl her age to settle down an' git married, and
you'd thought she'd oughter have some good times
first ? Didn't you tell her what a dull time she had at
home, doin' housework, an' you thought I'd oughter
let her go round with other girls for a spell an' have
a little fun ? An' you'd have her to spend the evenin's,
tim'n again, at your house, an' you have her go down
to the landin' with you an' get ice cream an' listen to
the music. An' you showed her how to do her hair
different, an' you lent her things to make her look
pretty, an* "
"Stop!" Her own voice seemed to come from a
"Ain't it true?"
"Yes, it's true." She listened to her own words be-
ing twisted against her, while Phemy cowered silent
in the chair. "Yes, I said that. I thought it was a pity
for any girl of seventeen to marry. But "
"An' Willie Pearce'd have married her honest, an'
if she hadn't listened to you she'd never have been
where she is now. Bert Havens wasn't good enough
for you to look at, with your city ways 'n your city
friends, but you didn't mind tumin' him oflf on to
THE PRICE of; youth 269
Fan's hand went out to the doorpost again, then
dropped helplessly at her side.
"Yes, Bert Havens. You needn't look s'if you
never heard his name before. Didn't she used to
meet him at your house, where you kep' him hangin'
round after you till you didn't have no more use for
him? An' ''
"Phemy, how many evenings have you been out
with me, after your work was over? How many
evenings have you spent at our house at all?"
"I . . . don't know."
The words came guiltily. Fan caught the mo-
mentary lift of her blue eyes, and there was a
despairing appeal in th^^
"Once more, you mealjito say that I knew about
this — that I encouragedf/ou?"
Phemy's voice rose in sudden nervous shrillness.
"Yes, you did, Fan ! You did ! I know you did !"
"Ain't it true?"
Fan looked at the girl's head, bent down again in
"Ain't it true?" Mrs. Martin demanded.
"Yes . • • it's true," she said slowly.
"It's true, an' you wonder I curse my trust in ever
270 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
lettin' her go with you. I know who the blame's on.
An' there's a God in heaven, Fan Tasker, though you
may deny Him, an' He's watchin' things an' seein'
things, an' He knows the rights of it."
"I hope He does I"
She looked at Phemy, and restrained a wild, im-
pulse to laugh, the hysterical reaction of overstrained
"He does, an' some day the curse of what you've
done'll light on you, an' may it light heavy. Now
go out of my house." She straightened herself, and
there was a simple dignity in the lines of her. solid
figure, her broad, toil-worn face. "Go out of my
house. Fan Tasker, an' I ain't never askin' you to
darken it again. You've done your work, an' you've
done it good, an' now I'll ask you to go."
Fan had never respected Mrs. Martin more than
she did at that moment. Her quiet pride had in
it an element of greatness. She turned her back on
the girl and bent over the wooden tub again.
"May I speak to Phemy, alone, for a moment?"
"No, you mayn't. I reckon you've done her enough
harm already. She don't want to speak to you, an'
I ain't goin' to have her. You go."
Outside, the grim himiour of it caught her again;
she laughed bitterly as she went past the bright
THE PRICE OF YOUTH ' 271
autumn flower-borders and out at the little painted
gate. What did it matter? Her own shoulders
were broad enough; she could take the blame for
two. Turning oflf through the woods, with an
instinct to avoid the high-road, she heard a pattering
of feet behind her. Phemy had slipped out by the
back way and dodged after her breathlessly.
Fan turned slowly and waited for her.
"Oh, Fan, I hated to have you go that way I I
wanted to tell you. Oh, Fan, are you awful mad?"
She was out of breath, and half sobbing still. But
all her fear seemed to have been left behind her in the
house; her childish eyes met Fan's for the first time
openly, and there was a hopeless courage in them as
well as shame.
"No, I'm not mad at you. You know that. But,
Phemy, you know it wasn^t true, don't you? You
know I knew nothing about it at all?"
"Yes, I knowl Fan, I've treated you awful bad
"Why couldn't you have spoken the truth? No one
would have been any angrier with you."
"I was . . . scared. Fan, you don't know what
mother's like — you don't ! If she thought it was my
fault she'd have killed me. I dasn't tell her!"
2^2 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
"I sec." She was silent a moment. "Then you
knew, Phemy? That night you were so scared of the
"Fan, it near killed me. I wish't it had. I wish't
I was dead now. You don't know what it's been like.
I've laid awake nights an' I've prayed God to kill me
'fore anyone found it out."
"And you told your mother you spent the evenings
over at my house all the time?"
"I had to tell her something. I had to, Fan I I've
been so scared. I've been scared you'd know, an'
you'd let on, an' I made you promise "
"But, Phemy, why couldn't you have told me the
"I dasn't. I knew you'd hate me. You ain't like
me. Fan, I've wanted to tell you over an' over again
an' each time I couldn't."
Fan smiled, and the smile made her face curiously
"I don't think you need have been afraid of me,
Phemy. I shouldn't have hated you. I don't hate
people because they're . . . foolish. I think it
would have been better if you'd told me from the first.
I think I'd have been a little . . . kinder to you if
"An' you ain't mad? Oh, Fan, I was so scared
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 273
you'd let on, back in the house. You was awful
"You ought to know me better than that. I don't
go back on people, Phemy. And you know if I ever
did you any harm I didn't mean to."
"You never did. You always was better'n me.
Fan, if they do say things about you. On'y moth-
"If I were you," said Fan gently, "I wouldn't be so
scared of her. She's fond of you, Phemy, and I don't
think she'll be angry with you very long. It seems
to me, if I had a mother, I'd want to tell her . . •
"You don't know. Fan, I couldn't. I'd have told
anyone first. It's different for you; you don't know
what it's like. You've never gone to bed and prayed
you wouldn't wake up in the momin'. You've never
" She paused, and her hands clenched them-
selves with the old gesture in her skirt. "Fan, you
ain't goin' to let on — ^not to no one ?"
"No. Of course I'm not. I guess anything more
people like to say about me won't hurt me anyway.
Now run along, Phemy. If your mother knew you
were out here talking to me she'd be very angry."
"She don't know. She's finishin' the washin'. Fan,
you don't think I'm so . . . awful bad?"
tjA THE PRICE OF YOUTH
'"No. IVe UAA joa. And I doo't dunk I . . .
see things just the same as other people always.
Maybe it would be better, some wajrs, if I did,
but I don't know. . . . And Phemy— don't be so
frightened of your mother. I don't think you need
"You're . . . awful good. Fan."
Rain was banning to fall, a fine delayed drizzle.
Fan looked at the girl's thin cotton dress with a new in-
stinct of protection.
"Run along, Phemy I You mustn't get wet through
and catch cold."
"I wish't I could I I wish't I could die," said Phemy
"No, you don't You don't wish anything so
"It ain't wicked. It ain't no v;ickeder'n what I
"Don't talk nonsense I Run along into the house
before your mother comes to look for you. You're
getting wet now."
"An' — ^you won't ever give me away?"
"No," said Fan.
THE rain, now that it had come, lasted sevieral
days, the first break in the September dryness.
The wet intensified the yellow of turning leaves, the
russet and gold of decaying underbrush. The trunks
of the pines were black and saturated, their boughs
weighted down with moisture which, condensing on
every twig, ran off their tips in dull, heavy drops to
the sodden ground below.
Fan spent a great deal of her time in the woods.
She wandered out bareheaded, regardless of the
weather, and came home soaked to the skin. She
seemed utterly indifferent as to whether she took
cold or not. Mrs. Sales began at last to worry
about her. Little as she liked Fan, it went against
her good nature to see the girl going about listlessly,
day after day, oblivious alike of household matters,
her own health, and worst sign of all to another
woman, what she wore or how she looked. All pride
seemed to have gone from her. She settled down into
a groove of morose silence. She no longer took any
276 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
interest even in quarrelling with Mrs. Sales. Tasker
was out a good deal of Ac time, transafting antmim
buMness in a neighbouring township, and it often
happened that the two women, left alone in the
house, passed whole days without exchanging a
word. Yet in a way th^ got on better than they
had done hitherto. Fan took no interest in the
house; she let things go their own way, and the &ct
of her indifference reduced the old-time antagonism to
a kind of negative truce.
To Mrs. Sales there was something dreadful in
the girl's mood. She b^;an to have uneasy visicms
of Fan going off into a decline. Sometimes when
she was away from the house Mrs. Sales would
fidget restlessly from door to window, a dozen times
in the afternoon, on the look-out for her return,
vague forebodings — ^traceable possibly to long ac-
quaintance with the ways of forsaken maidens in
novelettes— dominating her indolence. She tried in
sheepish, almost pathetic ways, to rouse the girl out
of her Hstlessness. If Fan recognized this change
of attitude she took no notice. She met all Mrs. Sales'
overtures with an indifference that had not even
the energy of actual repulsion. More than once,
after Fan had gone to bed, Mrs. Sales took her wet
shoes and dried them surreptitiously by the kitchen
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 277
One afternoon, when the rain had cleared a little,
Fan went down to the river-bank and sat on the
drenched ground under the trees, in the spot where she
had first met King. The woods, that had known her
happiest hours, had for her now the attractiveness of
desolation. She took a morbid pleasure in going over
the summer day by day, bringing home to herself all
that she had lost.
The little sentry-box where she and Phemy had
bathed so often stood vacant, the door unhinged and
the grey boards streaked black with rain. Across the
river, smooth and unruffled, the opposite bank stood
out clear through the moist atmosphere. The neutral
sky was broken in one place by a streak of yellow,
where a watery gleam of sunlight filtered through.
Out on the river a boat was moving diagonally, the
sail hanging slack now and then as the breeze failed.
She could hear the flapping of canvas and the
creak of the sheet as they put about. When the boat
came nearer, on the second tack that would bring it
close to the shore where she sat, she could see three
people in the stem. One was Dolly Harding, hatless
and smiling, and by her sat a big grey-haired man in
a white sweater, that Fan knew to be her father. The
third was King.
He had the tiller, and as the boat came about,
378 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
almost directly below her, she could look down on
them as from a balcony. He was sitting out on the
gunwale, one knee drawn up and his pipe gripped
between his teeth, in the attitude made familiar to
her a hundred times. She could see the way his
hair ruffled back from his forehead, the old half-
disagreeable expression as he screwed up his eyes to
watch the sail. Dolly was laughing, and her father
leaned over to say something to King as he put the
tiller over. Then the boat turned, with a hissing rip-
ple at the stem; he changed places, stooping as the
boom swung over, and this time the sail hid him from
She sat there for a long time, watching till the sail
became a mere triangular blur, lost among others in
the lower stretch of the river. After all they were
his people, of his world; he belonged to them, not to
her. As she walked back to the house she felt no
active jealousy, only a dull sense of loss. He had
come into her life and he had gone away. She had
the simimer to remember; that ought to be enough.
And she tried to think what it would have been like
had she never met him at all; whether it would have
been any better. She tried to realise the time when
she had not known him, and could not. Somehow
he seemed bound up in every memory of her life.
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 279
Her feet sank into the damp heavy soil of the path-
way. Her eyes began to prick, and for a moment
the straight pine-trunks wavered before her. She
set her teeth savagely, glaring at them through a
"You fool — fool — fool," she said. "What are you
making a fuss about? Are you going to whine and
holler like a whipped dog just because you had some-
thing once and you lost it? You'd better be glad
yon ever had it at all. So you're^ going to go round
feeling sorry for yourself and trying to work up a
beautiful pathetic "
She stopped short and sat down by the pathway,
burying her face in her arms, not without a ridiculous
anger with herself in that she could not cry without
having to sit down to do it. She drew in her breath
with a long resisting shudder.
"Oh, God, I don't care I I don't care if I am a fool I
I . . . can't stand it."
She cried for a long time in sheer abandonment, and
the crying rested her. Gradually she felt her strength^
of will come back, her power to jeer at h^r own mis-
fortune. The drops from the weighted pine-boughs
fell on her head and shoulders, and the moist resinous
smell of the ground rose to her soothingly. She stood
up and went doggedly on her way.
28o THE PRICE OF YOUTH
When she got home Mrs. Sales noticed that her eyes
were red, but said nothing. Three weeks ago she
would have rejoiced at Fan's discomfiture. Now that
her triumph had come she found herself taking singu-
larly little pleasure in it.
She ransacked her mind for some scheme of ccoi-
solation; of diversion even. One day she came down
into the sitting-room with a fashion-paper in her
"I just come across an awful pretty shirt pattern,"
she began warily. "It's one I had by me. I thought
maybe you'd like it to make up that blue stuflF you got
a while back."
"I'm not going to make it up."
"I would. It's real pretty . . . look." She
spread the paper out on the table. "I'd make it up for
you if you'd let me have it I'd just as lieve have
somethin' to do."
"I guess I won't bother/*
But she met the overture on the whole less ungra-
ciously than usual. Mrs. Sales was encouraged to say
to her later :
"Fan, why don't you ever drive down to the village
any more? I would if I was you. It*s awful dull
stayin' round the house all the while."
'*I don't stay round the house."
THE PRICE OE .YOUTH 281
"Seems to me I'd go out more an* see folks. It's
awful dull for you."
It was as much as she dared say, but somehow the
attempt, clumsy as it was, seemed to pave the way
to a more friendly footing between them. Mrs. Sales'
ill-humour was always due to force of circumstances
rather than natural inclination, and she was bent
now on trying her best honestly to repair a damage
for which she held herself dimly and uncomfortably
They were sitting in the parlour one afternoon. It
was Sunday, and Fan was wading doggedly through
the coloured comic supplement of the Journal. Mrs.
Sales put down the sheet she was holding, severing
her mind from the latest Newport scandal to watch
the girl's bent head.
"Fan," she said, "you ain't seen nothin' of Mr. King
since he went away, have you ?"
"No," said Fan.
Her tone was flatly disinterested, but Mrs. Sales was
not to b£ baulked.
"He's stayin' in the village still, ain't he?'
"I don't know."
"I guess he'll come over some day."
"I don't see why he should," said Fan. She kept
her eyes fixed rigidly on the last achievement of Foxy
aaa THE PRICE OF YOUTH
GraiK^ but the crude adoors danced before her
''I guess be win an right Fan,'' she blundered with
sudden resolve, ^if Mr. IQng asked you to marry him,
would you do it?'*
**WUl yon ten me what that has to do with you?"
**It ain't got nothin'. I only wondered." Mrs.
Sales' meekness nowadays was amazing. "I just got
to thinkin' about it Of course he win," she finished
"What do you mean?" said Fan.
"Why, I mean after that Monterey business an' the
way he got you talked about He's a gentleman/'
said Mrs. Sales with fine confidence. "I wouldn't
give much for him if he didn't Why, Fan, you
don't mean you ain't thought of it. Of course he
win, if he's got any right feelin'. He ain't so dumb
as what that comes to. I guess he knows the way
folks is talkin' an' the way they will talk. He'n have
to ask you, right enough. You must see it yourself.
I guess he ain't gone so far just to back out at the last
I was only "
Fan had risen, and the paper feU from her hands.
Her face was white and strained. She stood looking
down at Mrs. Sales as though she had struck her.
"Why, Fan, I didn't mean to make you fed badly 1
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 283
I was on'y sayin' what everyone else'II say. I thought
you— oh, Fan, I never knew you cared for him that
Something snapped in Fan's brain. She laughed
"I don't care for himl" she said. "Do you hear?
I don't care I"
She turned, and walked unsteadily out of the room.
That evening Mrs. Sales was mixing her final
night-cap when Fan came into the bar. She had
been out for a walk, and she pulled her golf-cape off
and flung it down on a chair. Her hair was disor-
dered with the wind; her eyes were restless and her
"Where's the whiskey?" she said. "I'll have it
when you get through. Say, it's as cold as hell out
to-night ! We'll start a fire to-morrow if this keeps
She reached out her hand. "Get a move on you I
The terrified astonishment of Mrs. Sales' face faded
as she gazed at her, giving place to almost the first
determination it had ever shown. She put the bottle
"I guess you don't want it. Fan."
384 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
"What's the matter with you I Hurry up."
Mrs. Sales' fingers tightened on the bottle. SEe
faced the girl steadily.
"I ain't goin' to. You ain't never touched it
before an' you ain't goin' to now. Fan, are you
"Crazy? No. I'm sane — for once I" She straight-
ened herself, pushing back the loosened hair from her
forehead with a sweeping gesture. The little refracted
points of light from the glassware behind the bar
seemed to meet and reflect themselves in her reckless
eyes. She looked at Mrs. Sales, standing there like a
figure turned to salt, and laughed again, putting back
"Don't look at me as if I was a ghost !**
Resolution dawned in Mrs. Sales' eyes. She pushed
her own untasted cocktail to the back of the bar.
"No, Fan. You ain't never done it an' you ain't
goin' to begin. An' — I ain't either. Come on out to
the kitchen an' we'll make some cocoa."
"The hell!" said Fan, laughing.
IN the two weeks that lapsed since he went to stay
with the Hardings, King had only passed the
Cedars Hotel once. It was dark then, and he was
on his bicycle. Through the wide screen-doors a
rectangle of yellow light was flung across the sandy
road; the shutters were open at the downstairs
windows, and he could make out lounging figures
in the bar. The shrill squeak of the gramophone
pierced the stillness, rasping out a popular song.
He fancied, slowing his pace as he passed the house,
a moving white glimmer against the tangled dusk of
the garden. He could not be sure that it was Fan,
and he did not make it his business to find out. But
as he rode on into the quiet darkness he carried with
him for a long time the impression of that restless
moving blur among the dim bean-poles and shadowy
Coming slowly this afternoon up the road from the
village every remembered detail, as he neared the
house, .greeted him with a sense of familiarity. A
286 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
little whik ago be had thooglit it a jear sinoe he left;
now it seemed to him yesterday. There was Mrs. Mar-
tin's cottage, with the same gay flower-beds in froot,
the same string of washing at Ae back; then at the
turn of the road the hotel came into sight, grey tim-
bered against the pine-woods, with Ae gamit, white
flagstaff, the broken fencing, the chickens scratching in
the neglected yard. He remembered the other evening
of his arrival ; the shiftlessness of the place struck him
more forcibly now than then; he saw it with critical,
accustomed eyes, robbed of any kindly glamour of
Mrs. Sales was sitting out on the porch. He left
his bicycle by the palings and went up to her.
"Is Fan in?"
Mrs. Sales turned her slow cat-like eyes on him.
"She's somewheres out in the woods, I guess. Did
you want to see herP*
"I'd like to."
"You'll find her somewheres out at the back."
"Thank you," said King awkwardly.
He had been hoping to avoid Mrs. Sales. The
sight of her familiar solid figure, in the soiled untidy
wrapper; brought home to him his least pleasant
recollections. He was conscious of disliking her
more than ever; she seemed to him, sitting there.
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 287
the dominant evil spirit of the house, voicing its worst
side. He would rather have encountered Tasker
himself. Something of the contempt he had always
had for her showed itself in his face as he turned
"I'll go and look for her," he said.
Mrs. Sales watched him cross the yard. In her
face was being written a curious struggle between pride
and something deeper; an expression that was new
and incongruous to her. It was almost a spiritual
"Mr. Kingl" she called at last.
He turned and came back slowly. She had risen
from the rocking-chair and was standing with her
wrapper girded about her, as though for battle. In
a sense it was a battle, one of the quaint and tragic
minor battles of human nature. This unstable soul,
gripped by the first unselfish impulse of her life, touched
at that moment the heroic. But of this King, as is the
privilege of onlookers, saw nothing. He saw merely
a stout, middle-aged woman of unprepossessing ap-
pearance, decked in a ridiculous wrapper: a figure
coarsened by the bread of dishonest idleness, a face
scarred by self-indulgence.
"Mr. King " she said again.
"Did you want me ?"
288 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
His lip curled a little as he faced her. She had
winced under his look in the old days, but she did not
"Yes," she said, "I want you, and I wanter tell you
something — ^before you go an' see Fan. I reckon
you sized me up the first day I come to the house, an'
you don't like me no more'n I like you. I ain't liked
you an' I ain't liked Fan, an' I done my best to
make mischief between you, but I want to tell you
one thing, an' it's the truth before Gawd if I ain't
never spoke it before. Fan's a good girl, an' I want
you to know it. You may have heard this about
her an' that about her, but it ain't true. It ain't
none of it true! I've lived with her, an' I guess I
know. There ain't no love lost between us; she's
acted mean to me an' I've acted 'mean to her, an' so
far as that goes I reckon we're quits. I've hated her
an' I've done all I know to do her harm, an' what
I say to you I wouldn't say to no one else. There's
lies been told about Fan, an' you've heard 'em, an' I
want you to know they is lies. She's a good girl, an'
I guess the man as marries her'U find it out, if he
don't before. Maybe you think what I say don't
count because it's me that says it. But if you don't
believe me you can ask her father, or you can ask any-
one as knows her as well as I do. I ain't sayin' it for
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 289
any love of her nor for any love of you, for I ain't got
no reason to like either of you. I'm sayin' it because
it's God's truth, an' you can take it or leave it. Now
I've done, Mr. King, an' I guess you can go and think
Her speech had left her breathless. She had
roused from her indolence to a pitch that struck the
young man before her with amazement, if not convic-
tion. She had never dealt in caution, and it did not
occur to her now, in her well-meaning determination,
that her championship might be doing Fan more harm
than good in his eyes. Her method resembled not
remotely that of the elephant who sat down on the
eggs. She looked at King's troubled face, and her
own flushed a little, as it had not done for years, un-
der its coating of powder. She hitched her wrapper
closer about her, in the old familiar gesture, and the
waft of sachet floated down to him from the porch-
"I've told you the truth," she said again doggedly,
"an' I want you to think it over, an' I want you to
think it over good — an' I guess you'll find Fan out in
the woods back of the barn I"
SHE was coming along the river-path toward the
house, walking slowly, her head bent a little and
her hands swinging free at her side. Picking his way
across the remembered tangle of the garden, past the
bam where implements lay rusting heedlessly among
weeds and scattered boxes, and the old black horse
lifted friendly eyes to him across the stable door, he
had thought out what he meant to say, but now, at
the sight of her, all planned speech was swept from
his mind. He was smitten by the change in her. She
looked tired, dreary; her dress was untidy and her
hair unbrushed. It was as if all pride had gone
from her. He stepped forward and held out his
"Fan, I want to speak to you — I "
She stopped short, and her eyes met his blankly.
At the look something rose in his throat and choked
"Good afternoon, Mr. King. Did you ride over
from the village? I thought "
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 291
"It's a little cooler, isn't it?" she went on. "I've
just walked down to the river. There are quite a lot
of sail-boats out. I suppose a good many visitors
are staying on till the end of the month, now the
weather's turned nice again."
He set his teeth, blocking her way along the path.
"Fan, are you going to listen to me?"
A little quiver went through her, and he saw her
hand clutch itself involuntarily in the fold of her skirt.
She lifted her chin, smiling.
"Certainly — ^if there's anything you want to say.
Hadn't we better go back to the house, so you can sit
down a while? I thought you were back in the city
again by now."
"I'm not; I'm going to-morrow. Fan, what's hap-
pened to you?"
"Why, I guess nothin's happened that I know of.
Things don't happen in Jersey ; I think I told you that
Her gaze ran lightly over him as he stood before
her. Three weeks ago she could not have met him
like this; her nerve would have failed. She was won-
dering how long it would be before it failed now at the
look of his eyes, the touch of his hand.
"Fan, is it any use pretending 1 You know what
I have come to say."
292 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
"I beg your pardon I"
"Look at me — ^you shall I" He caught her wrists
that she tried to drag from him, and held them. '1
want to take you out of this — ^to take you away.
Don't you think I know how this life is killing you,
what it's making of you? Now, in this little time,
you are diflFerent. I hate to think of you living
here, spending your life as you will spend it, as you
can't help spending it. Fan, listen to me before it's
too late. You am't a child, you must understand. I
want to take you away from it all."
All affectation had dropped frcnn him; he was
speaking for perhaps the first time in his life wholly
earnestly, and she recc^^sed the change and shrank
from it. It was as though she were brought face to
face suddenly with the real in him that had always
eluded her, the self she had tried to reach and failed.
If he had spoken like this a month ago. . . . She
set her teeth and laughed.
"My dear boy, don't be theatrical 1 It doesn't suit
you. If "
His grasp tightened on her wrists, and she was
"I'm not a rich man. Fan," he went on. "I'm not
likely to be a successful one, but I can work — I can
make things up to you. We are both of us young;
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 293
we can start together. I don't want to force you to
anything; I don't want to tie you down. You will be
as free, if you marry me, as you were before. You
shall be free to make the best of your life in your own
way. What will you ever do here, if you stay? You
know what your life has been, what it is likely to be.
You have no claims. You have the right to choose
for yourself. You know me, and . . . you care for
me enough to trust me. I swear to God you shall
never be sorry for it 1"
Her hands went cold in his grasp.
"Will you — let me go," she said faintly.
He loosed them, and she stepped back.
"Fan, you am't going to refuse ?"
'The autumn world seemed to close and quiver about
her. She looked at his face, every line that she loved,
and the longing of her own body fought against her.
Three weeks ago, if he had looked like this, spoken
like this, all her life might have been different. Now
it was too late; she had learnt the eternal paradox
that only with love comes the strength to do without
love, and the irony of it gripped her through the
struggle of her will. It was not himself only that
pleaded ; it was life and youth, all that she missed and
wanted. For a moment she wavered; then her
hand went out and touched the tree beside her, clinging
294 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
"Marry you?" she mocked. "Do you think I'm go-
ing to let you — any man — marry me out of pity ?"
"Would any pity in the world give me the right to
say this to you if I didn't love you? Fan, it's you
yourself that I want — ^that I care for — ^and you know
it. You can't say you don't. Fan, don't pretend to
me; don't try to 1"
"You say you love me," she said slowly. "If you
did, would you believe what you did about me — ^what
you do now?"
"It doesn't matter. I believe nothing, but if I did
all I could believe in the world wouldn't make any
difference now — it couldn't come between us."
"If it didn't make a difference to you, don't you
think it would to me? You believed things once,
against my own word, and you'd believe them again.
How long would it be, if I married you, before you'd
begin to think this, to think that — remember, and
weigh and count up? You couldn't help itl We
are different, Willis. We don't see things the
same, we don't judge them the same. You have said
it yourself, and you know it. We belong to different
worlds. We should never get on together — ^never!
And besides," she went on recklessly, "I don't want
to marry at all. Why should I? I don't want to
settle down. I want to have a good time while 1
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 295
can. You say this life is spoiling me — ^how do you
know? How do you know I haven't grown to like
it? How do you know I even want to give it up?
I don't. It suits me. You came down here this
summer, and I liked you, and you were fun, and
we've had some . . . good times together. But
there it ends. Good heavens, do you suppose I take
everything seriously? I thought I cared for you till
you began to get serious, and I care for you still, but
I care for myself a lot more. You want to make
me different from what I am. You never could, for
one thing, and — ^if you could, I wouldn't want to be 1"
"That isn't true, Fan."
"Oh yes, it is," she laughed. "My dear boy, I
know myself better than you know me. I know what
I want, what I like. I'm happy the way I am. Oh,
I've thought things over too, and I guess they — ^arn't
so bad, in the long run. I've thought a lot since you
went away, and I see the truth. Don't stand there
looking so solemn I"
His face whitened slowly.
"Do you mean me to believe that you never
"Yes, I cared. You were different to anyone I
ever knew, and I liked you, and I liked to think you
were ... in love with me. But I guess I . . .
never took it quite so seriously as you did, that's all,"
296 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
%t was easier now that the first step was passed.
She felt suddenly the measure of her own strength,
and with it the fierce passion of self-wounding. She
looked at him, straight and healthy and stm-tanned,
and thought of the man who had come down here three
months ago; the slight limp figure she had carried
in her arms through rain and storm to the house-
shelter. She saw all that the summer had done
for him; all that it had done for them both. It was
she who had brought him back to health, made of
him the man who stood before her now; taught him
the physical joy of living, the strength of the woods.
She felt a savage gladness in that he owed it to
her ; to her and to no one else. He would go back to
his work now sane and whole, with a few things
learnt, a few forgotten; and she had done it for him.
And for her ... he had opened the gate to her
heritage and led her through. She had passed the
boundary and found her Kingdom, and she had only
herself to thank that it was a sorry one. Hence-
forth their ways would part, but he had done this for
her, and nothing could undo it. On both sides the
summer's debt stood level.
"Fan," he said gravely, "I want you to think this
over. Think what it means to both of as ! You sent
me away once. If you send me now it will be for the
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 297
last time. As for your not caring for me, I won't
believe it. Dear, before it is too late, think. Give
what is best in you the chance! This isn't the
life for you. You must know it." He paused a
second, looking at her very steadily. "I am asking
you. Fan, for the last time. Have you thought what
you are saying, what you are doing for us both if you
He knew even as he said it that he could not reach
her. She was beyond him, set apart by some change
that he dimly realised. This was not the girl he talked
and laughed with on the road to Monterey; the girl
he had kissed under the shadow of the same trees
that watched them now. In some subtle way she
had altered, changed, passed the mystic line that di-
vides the child from the woman. The very poise
of her body was diflferent. The little carelessnesses of
dress, the untidy blouse, the sagging skirt-band, that
had smote him at first sight with a sense of hurt at
her deterioration, strengthened now rather than marred
a dignity that was new to him. With her person-
ality dominating him as it had never done before
there came to him, in a glimpse of naked self-know-
ledge, the real sense of the gulf that was between them.
The summer's glamour fell from him. It was not
only that he saw her differently; he saw himself
298 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
differently. He was nearer to caring for her in that
instant than he had even been, but stronger than his
feeling for her rose the mistrust of himself, the dread
of the future's reckoning. It was as though this
moment, fleeting, transitory, foreshadowed for him
the real test of the years to come, the test there would
be no evading. His spasm of genuineness was nearly
spent, and he saw by its failing flash how far it had
carried him. Already his artificial self was wavering,
reassertive. If, on its impulse of retreat, he could
have recalled his words just spoken, he would have
done so, but there was no need. She leaned her wrist
against the tree, in the gesture he remembered, and her
cheek against it, and met his gaze with old, hardened
"I guess you've had my answer."
"And you mean it?"
It wouldn't be too late now; her fingers tightened
on the rough bark.
"I— mean it. Yes."
The real moment had passed; he was back on the
old level. He stood looking at her a moment longer,
out of the strange hazel eyes that were to her like
the eyes of no other man in the world ; the eyes of the
only man the world had ever held for her. Then
he held out his hand simply. It was the gesture of
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 299
the ultimate coward. But her love spared her that
knowledge of him.
"Good-bye," he said.
The commonplace was so exactly like him. It put
the final seal of a bitter humour on all she would have
to remember him by. Her fingers were cold and
"Good-bye," she said stonily.
He turned, and she watched him go till the last grey
blur of his coat was lost between the greyer pine-
trunks, her figure tense and rigid as the tree against
which she leaned. There seemed something of its
dogged strength in her, something of its straightness.
For a little while the even, steady crunch of his step
on the pine-needles was audible, growing gradually
fainter; then it ceased altogether. She threw her-
self face downward on the brown sodden ground, and
her teeth closed on her wrist.
There were voices in the bar when at last she drew
near the house. A door creaked, and she heard her
father say :
"Wickedness 1 I reckon there ain't much wicked-
ness your precious hussy wem't on to before she was
three foot high I You can't come round me with that
300 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
racket I spotted the sort Pbemy was Vmg enoogli
ago, and so did everyone else in the town tfaafs got
their eyes open« You've only got yourself to Aank
that you didn't take'n tfirash her a year ago when it
might have done some good And about my dat^ter
. . . ni ask you to just get out and shut the door
after you, and if you lay your tongue to my daugh-
ter's name in Matehocken, by God youTl be sorry for
Tasker was lounging by the end of the bar, one
1^ slung across it, his hat on his head and a cigar
between his teeth. His moutfi was drawn into a de-
risive curve, the ugly lift one sees sometimes in the
mouth of a dog. The smile faded when he caught
sight of Fan in the doorway. His face hardened and
his blue eyes darkened to steel colour.
"Oh, it's you," he said. He shifted the cigar leis-
urely. "It's a pity you didn't come in sooner an' hear
sutlyn' interesting about yourself. Come here. Stand
there. I want to look at you."
She obeyed mechanically.
"John " said Mrs. Sales faintly. She half-
crossed the room to range herself by the girl's side.
"You shut upl" said Tasker. "I'm dealing with
this." And Mrs. Sales went helplessly back. "Now
look here," he said, "I want the truth from you, and
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 301
by God it had better be the truth! Were you at
Monterey with King the night I spent in the city?"
"Yes," said Fan steadily. Once her father's eyes
had had power to daunt her. Now she had no longer
any fear of him. She faced him, resolute. As she
faced him the likeness between father and daughter
had never shown so strongly.
"One o'clock at night, and you stopped at Ford's
place for drinks . . . you, my daughter ... I
You stand there and tell me what I wouldn't have be-
lieved from anyone but you? If I'd known this I'd
have thrashed you within an inch of your life I You,
after the way I've brought you up, stand and tell me
If there was humour in the situation, Tasker was
the last man to see it. He was absolutely sincere in
his anger. Fan, meeting his eyes unflinchingly, won-
dered dully whether her father really thought that
anything mattered to her now, anything he might say,
anything he might do. She wondered, in an imper-
sonal, remote way, whether he was going to strike
her. She wouldn't have cared if he had. Nothing
mattered now. It was all very funny . . . she
wanted to laugh. She found herself noticing the cu-
rious way her father's teeth met on the cigar, the fa-
miliar droop of his grizzled yellow moustache.
308 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
He sfipped to Us feet, towering above her. Mrs.
Sales gave a frightened cry.
"Do yoa know that I'd have turned yon out of the
house, yon and that along with yon? If I catch
him round here again 111 break every bone in his
danmed body, and if I hear of you speaking to
The colour came back to Fail's face in a rush.
It was as though something had roused her suddenly
from her apathy, brought her back with a shock to
everyday consciousness. She straightened herself,
and for the moment her look cowed even Tasker's
"I guess it'l^ ... all right, father," she said
quietly. "You needn't worry about that. I . . .
shan't see him again . . ."
Her voice quivered and broke. She put out her
hand gropingly for the door-handle and turned and
went. They could hear her going up the staircase
slowly, one step at a time, till she reached the top.
Tasker looked at Mrs. Sales, and his gaze was almost
"The hell r he said.
WINTER came early that year. The week
after Thanksgiving dull, grey clouds began
to gather and bank along the horizon, and there was
in the air the unmistakable presage of snow. It came
one noon, a skirmish of fine driven flakes, and by
nightfall the woods were wrapped in a white silence.
The wheels of passing waggons sounded muffled and
Mrs. Lyons stood at her back door, looking out.
Beyond the shadowless stretch of pasture plot the
pines made a line of solid blackness, and above them
the sky was of a clear frosty blue, set with quivering
stars. Lights from the village showed here and there
through intervening trees; it was hard to tell which
stars were of earth and which of heaven. The little
frail woman, standing framed in the lighted doorway,
saw God in both. The air was keen, and she held
her hands wrapped in the shawl that was about her
shoulders, gazing out with eyes for which the mystery
304 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
of nature had never lost its wonder. A middle-aged
woman now, broken in health and worn with toil, she
faced the stars which to her were God's revelation with
the same simple trust and speculation with which she
had regarded them as a child. To her they were as
near and real and kindly as the nestled yellow lights
of the village where she had always lived. Love had
a great part in her religion, and the love which
makes small things great makes the great things also
She had been out to get in wood for the morning's
fire, carrying the split logs one at a time from the
wood-pile and stacking them by the side of the kitchen
stove to get dry. As she lingered now a moment
before turning indoors her eyes were drawn by a figure
moving diagonally across the white empty lot. It
reached the gate, turning in, and came noiselessly up
the snow-covered path. Mrs. Lyons stepped aside,
and the light from the doorway shone past her.
"Why, Fan, is that you?"
"It's me. I saw your light. I thought you'd be up
still. Say, isn't it cold? There's going to be a real
hard frost to-night."
"The stars look like it. I was just thinkin'. Come
on in. Fan. I'm real glad you came over."
Fan stamped the melting snow from her shoes, and
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 30S
followed her into the kitchen. The small room looked
homely and welcoming in the lamplight. Mrs. Lyons*
rocking-chair was pulled up close to the table, where
a sewing-basket stood with some unfinished needle-
work on the red-patterned cloth.
"Come over to the stove an* get warm. It's awful
cold. You'd ought to have something more on you,
comin' out this way."
"Oh, I'm warm enough!" She loosened her jacket
and sat down. Her face was flushed healthily with
exercise and the crisp air. "I've been over as far as
the Upper Bridge ; I wanted the walk. The woods are
lovely to-night. How's Tom ?"
"About the same, I guess. He's gettin' better
nights now. He's been better since he's had Doctor
Connolly. I was just goin' to take his medicine up
in a minute. It ain't ten yet."
She glanced at the small nickel clock on the dresser,
and took up her sewing again. Fan sat with her chin
on her hand, watching her across the table. Her
face looked old in the lamplight. Something of its
restlessness had gone, leaving settled lines that soft-
ened rather than hardened; records of a lesson learned,
a knowledge gained. The straight, firm mouth and
boyish chin were the same ; the grey eyes, a little graver
now, were eyes that had learned to look on life clearly
3o6 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
and kindly, without judgment or condemnatioa. Only
something of the old waywardness was in them still
when she smiled.
She put out her hand and touched one of the spools
of cotton lying near her.
"What are you making?"
"It's just somethin' I was doin' for Phemy. You
heard about her, didn't you?"
"About Willie Pearce. Yes, Phemy told me her-
self. I saw her the other day. I was so glad." She
pushed the spool back again. "I know Phem^s a
good girl, really, and she'll make Willie a good wife.
It'll mean everything to her. She always did care
for him, ever since they were at school. When are
they going, do you know ?"
"Tuesday week, Mrs. Martin told me. "Willie's
got a good post at Orange; he'll be startin' at
eleven dollars an' he'll work up. I guess Mrs.
Pearce don't like it very much, but Willie's over age
now, an' it isn't as if he was the only boy she'd got.
I was real glad about it I always liked Willie.
Tom knows a man there he's goin* to give him a lettef
Fan watched the soft fabric shaping under Mrs.
"I always felt it so much," she said slowly, "that
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 307
Mrs. Martin blamed me the way she did. Because
I've always been fond of Phemy, and IVe known h6r
since we were both little, and I felt it . . . more
than if it was myself. Maybe it' was natural for her to,
but it hurt me more than an)rthing else, I think."
"I know it did. I know just how you felt. But
she's gettin' over it. An' you can't always go by
what folks say when they're worried, Fan. They
just think what comes into their head first, whether it's
so or not."
"I know it did. I know just how you felt. But
tell you. Don't laugh." Her own mouth curved a
little involuntarily. "Mrs. Sales and father got
The sewing dropped from Mrs. Lyons' hands.
"Is that so!"
"They were married yesterday over at Asbury. I
knew the/d driven over in the morning, but I didn't
know what for. Mrs. Sales told me while father was
out putting the horse away. I had to laugh ; she was
so funny about it. I think she . . . didn't know
just how I'd take it. She was afraid I'd mind." She
paused, smiling across her locked hands at the work
Mrs. Lyons had resumed. "I don't know why she
should. I was glad. She said she meant to make
a different man of him, and she will. Poor old Dad.
308 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
... Do you know I've felt sorry for Mrs. Sales
lately," she went on. "I never used to, but I do. I
guess things am't always people's own faults. She's
told me a little about herself, and I think she'd had a
pretty hard time, and I guess she's . . . felt things
in a way. I know she has. She hasn't had other
people's chances always."
Mrs. Lyons bit off a length of cotton.
'Tolks make their own chances."
''Not always. She told me yesterday she'd always
wanted to marry and settle down and be — ^like other
people. It sounded funny, but I do understand.
She's been so different to me lately; I don't know
why. She doesn't like me any better, but she'd tried
to be . . . nice somehow. It's funny, because
I've always done my best to be mean to her." She
looked up at Mrs. Lyons' face. "She said it
shouldn't make any difference to me, her marrying
father, and — ^she's going to make him give me a
saddle-horse 1" The smile flickered out again. "It
was so like her to say that. But she has been nice
to me. And she tried to ... do something for
me, once. I didn't know at the time, and I guess it
did more harm than good, but she meant it all right.
She thought she was helping me. I shan't forget
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 309
Mrs. Lyons looked up in her gentle, questioning
"Was it— anything "
Fan nodded quickly, biting her lip as she stared at
"Yes. She thought she could help me. It wasn't
her fault, and maybe it was . . . just as well anyway.
Only . . ."
"Fan, I'm awful sorry for you !"
"You needn't be. I guess it was my own fault, most
oi it" She seemed to be gazing down the long road
of the summer's folly. "I didn't know then, but it
couldn't ever have been . . . different."
The older woman looked at her young grave face
"Fan, maybe I oughtn't to ask. But ... did he
ever want you to marry him?"
"And you didn't?"
"I couldn't. It wasn't anything to do with him. It
was just— everything. It wasn't possible. Sometimes
I'm . . . just as glad."
"You care for him still, dear?" said Mrs. Lyons, af-
ter a moment.
"Yes, I guess I always will, but . • . it's dif-
ferent. It was only him I cared for once, but
310 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
now if 8 made me . . • care for other things as
welL I guess I . • • see things better. I don't
The little clock had ticked past the hour.
"Haven't you got to take Tom's medicine up?" said
"I'm just goin* to get it." She rose, laying down
her work, looked at the girl's head with the lamplight
"Will you stay on at home, Fan?"
"No, that's what I came to tell you. I always leave
everything to the last, don't I? I got a letter from
"Your brother? Oh, Fan, I'm glad!"
"Isn't it good? He wrote before, but the letter
never got here. He's got a place just outside
Galveston, and he wants me to go out there to hini.
His wife wrote too; she wrote me an awfully nice
letter. I've never seen her, but she must be nice.
They want me to go as soon as I can get ready- — before
"An' you will? I'm awful glad for you. Fan. I'll
hate to lose you, but I'm awful glad."
"He's going to send the fare out, but father wants
to pay that, so I'm to use the money to get clothes with.
Will says he knows I'll like it there. It's just what
THE PRICE OF YOUTH 311
I've always wanted. Fll bring his letter over to-
"You'll have lots to get ready.''
''Mrs. Hewitt's going to help me. I guess I'll want
cver)rthing nearly !"
. "Well, I'm real glad, Fan."
She put her hand on the girl's shoulder before she
turned away, picking up a spoon and wineglass from
the dresser to take upstairs.
"Don't you go till I come down, Fan. I want to
The little clock ticked on in its cheery monotone.
A cinder dropped in the grate, and the sound made
a friendly companionship in this room that was more
homelike to her than her own home. Overhead she
could hear Mrs. Lyons' soft, regular footfall as she
moved across the bedroom floor. She reached for-
ward and touched the little heap of needlework on
the table, handling it with curious, tender fingers.
Once it would have had no meaning to her. Now as
she touched it she seemed to feel, to understand. It
was not envy; it was merely the fleeting sense of some-
thing she might have had once and had lost, but might
some day have again. For a moment a little empty
312 THE PRICE OF YOUTH
mist came before her eyes, and she bit her lip to keep
She heard Mrs. Lyons' step descending on the
"Tom says *"
She laid the sewing back with a little swift gesture,
smoothing its folds, and met her smiling.
-*; ^* f'. y .
THE LATE RETURNING
Author of "The Price of Youth"
Ootfi i2mo iias
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^Post-Intelligencer, Seattle, Wash.
*< The stoiy is strangely interestbg, and is clever and brilliant"
— Indianapolis News,
"The story is boldly and firmly told, and the blending of humor,
pathos, tragedy, and comedy is skilfully and admirably done."
— Milwaukee Sentinel.
"An unusually clever story." — The Advance, Chicago,
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